Completed Rockland County water report released

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The U.S. Geological Survey has publicly released its final report on Rockland County’s water resources.

The effort, headed by scientist Paul Heisig, kicked off in 2004 and involved field study followed by analysis to primarily determine if aquifers had been depleted due to increased population and resulting water use.

The new report details what Heisig has previously discussed during area speaking engagements. Visit http://pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2010/5245/ for the full report.

The issue of Rockland’s water supply has often become a political hot potato, especially lately, as United Water New York proceeds with a plan to build a new plant to treat and deliver Hudson River water to its county customers.

Click below for a story about the summary Heisig offered during the 2010 Ramapo River Watershed Conference and an update on United Water’s efforts.From an April 24, 2010 story by Laura Incalcaterra in The Journal News and on lohud.com:

Summer use called top threat to Rockland water supply

MAHWAH, N.J. — A five-year study by the U.S. Geological Survey has yielded results that could assist those working to ensure an adequate drinking-water supply in Rockland.

Paul Heisig, a hydrologist with the USGS, conducted the study and presented an overview Friday during the 15th annual Ramapo River Watershed Conference at the Ramapo College of New Jersey. The Geological Survey is an independent federal agency that gathers information and provides scientific data about natural resource issues.

Rockland relies mainly on the rain and snow that fall upon it for its water supply, and concern about whether there was enough supply and whether it was being managed efficiently led to the study. Talk about the project began in 2004, only two years after the last drought hit Rockland and forced water-use restrictions.

The USGS, the county, the state Department of Environmental Conservation and United Water New York, which provides drinking water to most homes and businesses in Rockland, partnered on the study.

Pumping spurs decline

Heisig’s review found that no permanent “dewatering” of the overall bedrock aquifer had taken place, one of the major issues to be researched going into the study. However, some groundwater levels declined in response to production well pumping.

The big concern, Heisig said, centered on seasonal water use during summer, when demand was high, but rainfall not always plentiful.

About 63.5 percent of all water use in Rockland is residential, Heisig said, with 9.4 percent tapped for commercial, industrial, governmental and institutional use; 5.7 percent for industrial cooling; 3.1 percent for golf courses; and 0.4 percent for nurseries, orchards and farms.

An additional 17.9 percent of overall annual water use is attributed to a summertime increase in residential, commercial, industrial, governmental and institutional water use, Heisig said.

The study showed that an increase in production well pumping between May and October results in lower groundwater levels in those wells. The result is that pumping has to be slowed or the wells could go dry.

The pumping also affects streams, Heisig said. Nearly all but the largest streams in the west-central section of the aquifer stopped flowing during dry conditions in late summer 2005, with groundwater-level fluctuations in the aquifer also largest in that same area, Heisig said.

The study also identified factors in how well the aquifer is replenished: the amount of precipitation; the rate of runoff due to impervious surfaces such as roofs, roads and parking lots; and the impact of sanitary sewers that remove an estimated 14.7 billion gallons of water from the county annually.

Possible new sources

The report also identifies potential additional water sources, including tapping parts of the aquifer not yet used; constructing the Ambrey Pond reservoir in Stony Point; retaining and reusing stormwater runoff; adding water flow to the Ramapo River via releases from the Stony Brook Watershed, which contains the river; treating water from the Hudson River; and recapturing treated sewage and redirecting it to wetlands where it can receive further natural treatment before joining the public water supply.

The $1.5 million study was funded by the USGS, the county, the DEC and United Water. After the DEC reduced its contribution to the project, then-County Legislator Ellen Jaffee, D-Suffern, who had pushed for the study, reached out to state Sen. Thomas Morahan, R-New City, who secured the remaining funding needed to let the review proceed.

UPDATED INFO: The final report comes as United Water New York is attempting to construct a Hudson River water treatment plant in West Haverstraw. The company wants to tap the river, treat the water, then deliver it to its Rockland customers.

United Water, which provides the majority of homes and businesses in Rockland with drinking water, is currently working to complete environmental studies as its proposed plant makes its way through the approval — or potentially denial — process.

The company sees the river as a secure source of water that would not be threatened by drought, as underground aquifers throughout Rockland and the Lake Deforest reservoir in Clarkstown have been during hot, dry summer months.

A coalition of citizen groups has banded together against the effort, arguing that better conservation and the curtailing of development could defer the need for the proposed plant, which they say will cost too much to operate – a cost that would be passed on to ratepayers.

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  1. In fact, 75 percent of U.S. nuclear plants, including Braidwood in Illinois and ** Indian Point in New York, have leaked radioactive tritium—sometimes into **groundwater and **drinking water.
    [note: Indian Point Power plant is directly across the River from Stony Point NY! ]

    Radiation Threats Not So Far From Home

    In the United States, 49 million Americans get their drinking water from sources within 50 miles of an active nuclear power plant. Using newly available data, PIRG found that *drinking water for major metropolitan areas, including Philadelphia, San Diego and New York City would be at risk in the event of a disaster or leak.
    In fact, 75 percent of U.S. nuclear plants, including Braidwood in Illinois and Indian Point in New York, have leaked radioactive tritium—sometimes into groundwater and drinking water.
    We’re pushing state and national leaders to abandon plans for any new nuclear power plants and calling for all existing plants to retire at the end of their current operating licenses.
    NY PIRG

    The report also identifies potential additional water sources, including tapping parts of the aquifer not yet used; constructing the Ambrey Pond reservoir in Stony Point; retaining and reusing stormwater runoff; adding water flow to the Ramapo River via releases from the Stony Brook Watershed, which contains the river; treating water from the Hudson River; and recapturing ******treated sewage and redirecting it to wetlands where it can receive further **natural treatment** before joining the public water supply.

    http://polhudson.lohudblogs.com/2011/02/22/completed-rockland-county-water-report-released/