Clarkstown Town Board Member Shirley Lasker expressed concern people are unaware of the proposed Haverstraw Water Supply Project.
“I worry this issue is really under the radar right now,” she said.
Lasker is reaching out to other public officials and sent letters to Orangetown Town Supervisor Andy Stewart, Assemblyman Ken Zebrowksi and Senator David Carlucci asking them to push for more public hearings on the water desalination project.
The State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), which accepted the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the on January 18, revised the timing of the public input opportunities. It moved the public hearing date at Haverstraw Town Hall, One Rosman Road in Garnerville from Feb 28 to March 6 at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. The DEC extended the public comment period on the 4,000-page document from one month to two months.
All written comments concerning the Draft EIS, draft SPDES permit, draft Water Supply permit or draft Excavation and Fill/Water Quality Certification must be submitted by April 20, 2012 to:
NYS DEC - Division of Environmental Permits
625 Broadway, 4th Floor
Albany, NY 12233-1750
Comments sent by regular mail must be postmarked no later than April 20. The same date applies for email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org fax comments to (518) 402-9168, must be received by 5 p.m. (EDT) on that day.
On Tuesday, Lasker requested the town board voice support for more hearings. At the board workshop, Supervisor Alex Gromack said a letter signed by town board members asking for more hearings would be the most effective step. Town Attorney Amy Mele will draft a letter for the board members to sign that will be sent to the DEC, governor and assembly speaker.
Lasker described the proposal as a “sleeper issue that a lot of people are unaware of” and wants to make sure the public knows what is going on.
“I think this is a very far reaching and consequential event,” she said. “It’s going to affect everybody in Rockland county and I for one have serious health concerns about leaks from Indian Point and whether or not the desal plant can really eliminate tritium from the water and what effects that could have.”
Lasker said the DEC’s changes help but they are not enough. She said more time is needed to study the extensive document and that since the proposal affects all of Rockland County, hearings should be held in more locations. Environmental groups also asked the DEC to require United Water to provide funds to pay for an independent expert to analyze the DEIS.
Her comments follow actions taken by the Clarkstown Planning Board which sent a letter on Monday, January 30 to the DEC’s regional director asking for the public comment period to be extended to six months, scheduling of multiple public hearings and requirement for United Water to pay for municipalities to hire an independent expert to review the DEIS. The letter further explained the board’s reasoning.
“The Planning Board notes that considerable amounts of ratepayer money have been spent by United Water on advertising how the desalination plant is ‘Proven, Purified and Reliable.’ It is only fair and equitable that the company be made to provide the time and funds that will allow the public to verify their claims.”
The planning board pointed out that based on its experience in reviewing DEIS documents for land use development, the 4,000 page DEIS cannot be thoroughly reviewed in the allowed 60 days especially without technical experts.
Bob Dillon of the Rockland Coalition for Sustainable Water said they were hoping for a much longer public comment period in light of the amount of time United Water had to prepare its document.
“They’ve taken two and a half years to get it accepted and finalized by the DEC,” he said. “If we see something we have an issue with in the first 90 days, we can bring it up and ask that it be re-studied.”
The plant would recycle water from the Hudson River and go through United Water’s nine-step process. The water would have to be desalinated, a process that removes salt, organic compounds and more. United Water has said the county’s water sources are not sufficient to keep pace with its growing population.