By Alison Grass
Here at Food & Water Watch we have just submitted comments for the Haverstraw Water Supply Project Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), a proposal by United Water New York for an economically and environmentally costly desalination plant in Rockland County, New York.
United Water, owned by Paris-based Suez Environnement, says they are bound by New York Public Service Commission orders to increase Rockland County’s long-term water supply, and the company claims that desalination is the only way to do this. We can’t help but disagree. In fact, it should be brought to light that United Water New York disregarded a variety of other long-term, more viable, less damaging options as early as January 2007 when they first publically announced their decision to go forward with the desalination plant.
What many people may not know is that United Water’s motivations to pursue this project conflict with the public’s best interest. Investor-owned water utilities, like United Water, earn a return on their capital investment: the more they invest in their water systems, the more profit they can make. What happens when private interests drive water policy? In the case of Rockland County, customers will face hefty water rate increases to pay for the project’s high financing and operating costs.
The company claims using conservation methods for a long-term water supply project is infeasible because they are a private company and cannot require their customers to participate in water conservation. However, water conservation is in the best interest of the surrounding community and the public in general. United Water could build a long-term water supply project based upon their already-existing water conservation initiatives. The DEIS even admits, “United Water’s conservation measures have been influential in reducing the overall water use patterns in the service area.” Why not make conservation a long-term water supply project in Rockland County?
Rockland County is not alone in their circumstances. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation should consider the fact that many communities hard-pressed to implement desalination plants have endured outlandishly expensive financial burdens. The Haverstraw Water Supply Project fails to meet or encourage long-term sustainable water management. In fact, it is highly probable that United Water will reap the benefits at the ratepayer’s expense, not including the potential negative environmental impacts the project may inflict upon water resources and wildlife habitats.
The proposed desalination plant would be sited only 3.5 miles downstream from the aging Indian Point nuclear plant, which is increasingly leaking radioactive tritium and strontium-90 into the river. The plant would be built in Haverstraw Bay, the most highly rated “Significant Coastal Fish & Wildlife Habitat” in the Hudson River Estuary. The energy-intensive plant would likely imperil the irreplaceable fisheries and significantly increase air pollutants, including greenhouse gas emissions.
In order to meet the future water needs for Rockland County, we firmly believe that corporate interests should not drive water policy. Rather, the people and policymakers need to take a comprehensive approach to water management through water efficient appliances, water conservation, green/improved infrastructure and sustainable land use planning.
Concerned citizens have until Friday, April the 20th at 5:00pm to take action, and we urge the people of Rockland County to oppose this proposal as harmful to the environment, unsafe, expensive, and unnecessary! Rockland County residents can do this by going to and signing onto our petition, demanding that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to reject the application of United Water for the Haverstraw Water Supply Project.
Mail public comments to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NY DEC) at:
NYS DEC Division of Environmental Permits
625 Broadway, 4th Floor
Albany, NY 12233-1750
Phone: (518) 402-9167, Fax: (518) 402-9168
E-mail: [email protected]