Letter to Rockland's Elected Officials:
Frankly, I am puzzled why all of you have not publicly condemned United Water’s proposal to construct a costly desalination plant on the banks of the Hudson River for the purpose of providing drinkable water to the citizens of Rockland County.
The New York State Department of Conservation Lake DeForest Decision of 7-23-1952 authorizing the construction of Lake DeForest states, "This Commission has the full power to see that this project is operated solely for the benefit of the citizens of Rockland County. The only benefit to the Hackensack Water Company (United Water New Jersey) and the people of New Jersey is the incidental benefit of a regulated flow in the river." (Page 10 paragraph 37)
In 2007, United Water was fined by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) for excess releases of water from the Lake DeForest Reservoir that summer. As of October 2007, Lake DeForest was at 58 percent of its capacity, and officials were concerned that a lack of adequate rain and snow over the coming months could lead to water supply problems in the spring. The excessive releases to New Jersey totaled approximately 1-BILLON gallons from June through November of 2007. 1-BILLON gallons equals 18 percent of the storage capacity of Lake DeForest. Without the excessive releases Lake DeForest would have only dropped to 76 percent of its capacity and very few would have taken notice.
Data from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) indicates that excess releases from Lake DeForest have been going on for decades. The DEC Lake DeForest discharge permit was formulated not only to allocate to Rockland County its share of Lake DeForest water, but to also protect the Hackensack River ecosystem and provide New Jersey with its share of the river's flow. There is no authority for United Water to exceed the discharge provisions of that permit.
Prior to 2008 it was common for United Water to release Lake DeForest water to New Jersey in excess of the DEC operating permit.
In April 2010 Dr. Daniel M. Miller, Bureau Head for the Water Supply Bureau of the Rockland County Department of Health gave testimony to the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) regarding United Water’s request for a rate increase. As part of his testimony Dr. Miller referenced a recent U.S. Geological Survey study, which concluded that on average from 1965 to 2008 an additional 19.25 million gallons per day more than required, was flowing to New Jersey for use by United Water New Jersey. (See: Dr. Daniel M. Miller PSC Testimony 4-30-2010 Page 22 lines 6 through 11)
I have prepared the attached worksheet, which concurs with Dr. Miller’s testimony by calculating that from 1965 to 2008 on average an additional 19.46 million gallons per day more than required was flowing to New Jersey. The variation from the USGS finding is about 1 percent.
During years of drought between 1991 through 2002, the United States Geological Survey's Hackensack River West Nyack monitoring station recorded an average flow of approximately 13.72 million gallons per day during the peak demand months from June through November. As a result, the average flow to New Jersey exceeded the amount permitted by the DEC by 5.97 million gallons per day
Even during times of County of Rockland mandatory water use restrictions from 1991 through 2002, in the peak demand months from June through November the excess flow from Lake DeForest to New Jersey averaged 3.5 million gallons per day.
These excess flows during drought years generally occurred at times when Lake DeForest was below 100% of capacity and water was not spilling over the dam. Instead, United Water was regulating the flow by releasing water through control valves at the Lake DeForest Dam.
United Water has largely complied with the Lake DeForest operating permit since being fined by the DEC in 2007. In the summer of 2010 Rockland County experienced below average rainfall, record heat and record demand for water. Despite drought like conditions Lake DeForest only dropped to approximately 73 percent of capacity and Rockland County residents did not endure water restrictions. However, Hackensack River reservoirs in New Jersey fell to approximately 48 percent of their capacity and New Jersey residents were put on water restrictions.
The New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) has ordered United Water to develop additional water supplies for Rockland County. In response, United Water is now proposing to construct, on the Hudson River in the vicinity of the Indian Point nuclear power plant, a desalination plant known as the "Haverstraw Water Supply Project" and is promoting that as "the best alternative to meet Rockland's water needs."
Did the long history of excess discharges from Lake DeForest prior to 2008 in violation of United Water's Lake DeForest discharge permit, mislead the Public Service Commission to erroneously conclude that Rockland County's water resources are less abundant then they actually are?
In fact the PSC and the parties to the Joint Proposal did not consider how much of Rockland’s water was being exported to New Jersey in excess of United Water’s Lake DeForest operating permit.
If Rockland County needs more water it should come from Lake DeForest and not from a controversial Hudson River desalination plant which will cost the citizens of Rockland County hundreds of millions of dollars.
Additional production from Lake DeForest when water is in abundance would allow for water production from the bedrock aquifer wells, scattered throughout the county, to be reduced or totally rested when not needed. This would shorten the recharge intervals of the bedrock aquifer wells and assure their availability during periods of peak demand.
The United Water Lake DeForest water treatment plant has a capacity of 20 million gallons per day. However, the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) currently limits production to an average of 10 million gallons per day. The best alternative to meet Rockland's water needs is to remove this NYSDOH production limitation and operate Lake DeForest as it was originally intended, “solely for the benefit of the citizens of Rockland County”.
Please see the attached worksheet: Excess flow of Lake DeForest to New Jersey 1959 - 2010