In a letter sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state and Rockland County officials on Tuesday, the Rockland Water Coalition cited Hurricane Sandy damage to the water treatment pilot plant in Haverstraw as reason to re-evaluate the desalination project. The letter sent by the Rockland Water Coalition and signed by 28 member groups, NYPIRG being the most recent, stated the October storm “dislodged intake pipes and mangled equipment used for United Water’s pilot plant.”
United Water’s application to build a desalination plant on the Hudson River in West Haverstraw is pending before the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). The proposed plant would process water from the Hudson River for use as drinking water.
Other impacts of the storm near the plant’s Haverstraw Bay location were raw sewage flooding the area near the proposed water supply intake and impassable access roads. In late December, coalition members took photos that depict the damage described in the letter. They show pipes swept from their original location, equipment broken, nearby homes boarded up. The pilot plant on Carol Ave was in operation from December 2010 through June 2012 when testing was completed.
United Water spokeswoman Deb Rizzi said the plant experienced “minor damage to the intake structure.” She noted that it was constructed as a temporary facility designed to be removed once testing ended and that dismantling it is under discussion.
Rizzi said planning for the proposed treatment plant takes extreme weather and river conditions into account.
“The permanent facility will be designed to withstand severe weather conditions,” said Rizzi. “Plans call for pumps which are designed to be submerged under water and will not be impacted by surges. The treatment plant will be located away from the river at an elevation way above any hazard zone.”
Coalition spokesman George Potanovic Jr. described the storm as “a ‘game changer’ for many aspects of life in our area - how and what we construct along the water front.”
The coalition asked the plans for the plant be re-evaluated when FEMA completes revision of its hazard maps, which could result in an increase of projected water levels for 500-year storms. It requested the state DEC hold an issues conference to address climate concerns and mandate a supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) to re-evaluate the plant’s proposal based on “the best available scientific information on climate change.” In October, the Rockland County Legislature asked the DEC to require the issues conference and adjudicatory hearing.
Rizzi pointed out the pilot plant was online during 2011’s major storms.
“We have excellent data to prove how well the treatment process works during severe storm conditions,” she said. “In 2011, water quality samples taken at the pilot during Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee clearly demonstrated that the purified water met or surpassed all drinking water quality standards. The purification process, which includes standard treatment and reverse osmosis, worked flawlessly despite turbulent conditions in the river during those storms.”
“The status of our request to the DEC for an issues conference has not been answered by the DEC,” said Potanovic on Wednesday. “I have been recently been informed (on Monday) that the DEC is still reviewing DEIS issues with United Water and we expect that review to continue for the next 6-8 weeks. At that time, the DEC will reach its SEQRA determination or decide if an issues conference and adjudicatory hearing are needed.”