New Paltz town and village officials are seeking to ease concerns voiced by Plains Road residents regarding the proposed water district #5, which is intended to replace private wells so homeowners don’t run the risk of theirs running dry when the village supplies its users during several upcoming shutdowns of the New York City aqueduct. At the Town Board meeting last Thursday, a series of 40 questions and answers about the new district was made available; the same is expected to be posted on both town and village web sites.
Donna Liebman, the only resident of Plains Road in attendance — it’s an engaged group of neighbors, but approving the questions and answers was added to the agenda by deputy supervisor Jeff Logan from the floor — wanted to make sure that the opposition to tapping that aquifer was not understated. “A comment was made that made it into the newspapers, that only five families are opposed,” she said, “but if you drive down Plains Road, you will see many lawn signs.”
The “answers to waters system questions” documents focuses on the benefits of joining a public water system, and one that’s paid for by the water users of New York City in particular. Tapping the aquifer under 101 Plains Road, together with improving the village’s own reservoirs, is considered the best way to provide adequate water during the shutdown periods, but for the opposition among Plains Road resident, they fear their own wells will be contaminated or run dry. The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) would pay to install all the necessary equipment to create a new water district, including water mains under the streets and connections to every home. In addition, water costs in the district would be subsidized by the DEP for five years. Plains Road residents have pushed for using the Wallkill River as a drinking water source, an alternative which the DEP will not support.
District residents will see improved water pressure and no need to maintain their own filtration equipment, unless they wish to remove the small amount of disinfecting chlorine in the supply, for which the DEP will supply a filter. Fire hydrants will improve fire safety and likely reduce insurance rates. The DEP will work with homeowners to find the least intrusive way to hook up each home, and will even run a capped-off connecting pipe to a residence should the owners wish to continue using a private well, to guard against connecting later at the homeowner’s expense. For homes that do get connected, the existing well will be disconnected to “prevent inadvertent commination of the new water supply,” but could be tapped for outdoor uses such as lawn-watering. Regardless, all homeowners in the district will be assessed for maintenance of the equipment, estimated at $18 per month once the subsidy period ends.
Tapping the aquifer for the shutdown periods is expected to happen whether or not a water district is formed. If it is not, the DEP would provide temporary water to homeowners whose wells “exhibit a reduction in well water depth to below the depth of the individual home’s well pump.” The official position of the town is that “a water district is a much less invasive solution to ensure residents do not get repeatedly inconvenienced.” Presumably, that position takes into account the estimated four months it will take to construct the new water district.
Village trustee Tom Rocco was on hand, and said that the document was vetted by its principal author, town engineer Dave Clouser, as well as attorneys, consultants, and elected officials from both municipalities.
Logan called this a “critical need of the community,” and that not tapping the 101 Plains Road aquifer would be tantamount to tell the 7,400 village and other town residents who now use the aquifer “that 203 shutdowns and the $6-8 million in additional costs per shutdown,” are not important.
An information session has been scheduled for Thursday, September 10, 7:30 p.m., at the New Paltz Community Center to provide an update on proposed water district #5 on Plains Road.