Drinkable Hudson v. costly mistake

| 03 May 2012 | 12:34

Fast-growing Rockland County is running short of water. The water company says it can deliver superior water quality by building a desalination plant that will purify Hudson River water for drinking. Detractors worry that plan could harm the residents and the river.

Drinkable Hudson Rockland’s conservation efforts are among the best in the nation. However, the state has determined that further efforts to conserve will not give us enough water to meet the needs of residents, businesses and firefighters. Quite simply, Rockland needs more water. That need has been well established by the Rockland County Department of Health and United Water. That’s why New York State ordered us to have a new long-term water supply online by 2015.

The Haverstraw Water Supply Project, which will purify water from the Hudson River, is the best plan to meet Rockland’s growing water needs. It will use reverse osmosis to provide purified, healthy drinking water. It’s the same technology used by the U.S. Navy, cruise lines and bottled water companies. In fact, reverse osmosis is used to purify drinking water for millions of people around the world every day.

Here in Rockland, a test facility has purified about 40 million gallons of water. Nearly 10,000 water samples have been analyzed by an independently-certified lab and reviewed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York State Department of Health. From every objective criterion, the results are excellent. The water not only meets or surpasses all government safe drinking water standards, but it is as good as or better than the quality that Rocklanders are drinking today.

The project was designed by engineers and environmental experts from United Water and world renowned firms. These premier professionals are the true experts in their fields. As a result, this new facility will deliver superior quality water. It will protect the environment and aquatic life in the river. It will cost far less than other options. It will bring many jobs and tax relief. It is an investment in the health and well-being of Rockland County residents. Simply put, the Haverstraw Water Supply Project is the best all around solution.

Michael J. Pointing Vice president and general manager, United Water New York

Costly mistake United Water New York’s plan to build a desalination plant it calls the Haverstraw Water Supply Project, is not the right solution for such an ecologically significant area. The plant would pump millions of gallons a day of Hudson River water from Haverstraw Bay, treat it, and then sell the drinking water to Rockland County residents. While desalinating water may be the only solution in arid and drought-stricken regions, there are numerous problems associated with this technology, including:

• Environmental impacts: The plant would draw up to 10 million gallons per day of water from Haverstraw Bay, a spawning area and nursery for fish throughout the Hudson River Estuary and the Atlantic Coast. It would discharge up to 92,000 gallons per day of wastewater.

• Cost: Desalination is among the most energy-intensive and costly ways to produce drinking water. The energy demand would also result in increased emissions linked to climate change, and operational costs would rise along with energy prices. Estimates by United Water anticipate the construction of the Rockland County desalination plant to cost up to $189 million, which would be paid for by increasing rates.

• Health: The proposed plant’s water intakes are 3.5 miles from Entergy’s Indian Point nuclear power plant, which has a long history of proven radioactive leaks.

The solution to Rockland County’s water needs is not a large-scale industrial water plant. The cheaper, safer, and healthier solution is to employ green infrastructure and a real water conservation policy. Rockland County deserves an honest and full debate about its options; instead, in what has become a commonplace practice, the public is being given only a short time to respond, and only one proposal to review.

United Water’s proposed desalination process would not remove all harmful chemicals from the water and will produce water that is much more expensive. Haverstraw Bay is a unique habitat, critical ecosystem and one of the richest estuaries on the planet. It needs to be protected and should not be used to increase United Water’s profits.

Paul Gallay President, Hudson Riverkeeper