County and state elected officials will hold a public hearing on water quality and service problems experienced by customers of a private company that serves homes in West Hurley, Pine Hill, Boiceville, Rosendale and Mount Marion.
Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan, State Senator Michelle Hinchey and Assemblyman Kevin Cahill have scheduled the hearing for Thursday, June 23 at 5:30 p.m. at Woodstock Elementary School to gather testimony for a state Department of Public Service (DPS) investigation.
Hudson Valley Water Company customers have had the largest number of issues in West Hurley, where about 84 customers get their water from the Long Island-based company. System No. 4 services 68 homes in the Holland Drive and Brittany Drive area and System No. 3 serves 16 homes in the Pine Street area. In that area, residents have told of systems that have been plagued with water main breaks, billing problems and water acidic enough to corrode pipes and damage appliances.
The latest issue is a high level of copper that indicates the water is too acidic despite steps taken to rectify it. Hudson Valley Water Company owner Jeffrey Fuller said a system placed in service in October 2000 should have reduced the acidity. A 2019 DPS investigation into West Hurley complaints found nine violations and made 49 recommendations including replacing all meters, implementing a plan for better meter readings and having a plan to provide potable water during outages.
“Ulster County residents have a right to clean drinking water and responsive customer service, and we cannot allow Hudson Valley Water Company to delay any longer on delivering essential needs,” county exec Ryan said in a statement.
Hinchey has been working on legislation including the Small Water Utility Transparency Act, which requires the Public Service Commission and Department of Environmental Conservation to conduct regular audits of private water companies.
“Access to clean water is a fundamental right, and yet for years, our community members — especially West Hurley residents — have suffered under the thumb of Hudson Valley Water Company, which has effectively abdicated its role to provide families with reliable water and the level of customer service they deserve,” Hinchey said in a statement.
Ulster County Legislature Majority Leader Jonathan Heppner, who’s district includes the affected properties in West Hurley, weighed in. “I strongly encourage all residents impacted by the privately-owned Hudson Valley Water company to attend and give testimony.”
West Hurley residents have discussed withholding bill payments and holding money in escrow until Fuller makes improvements, but they are subject to having their water turned off and accruing late fees. While some homeowners have resorted to drilling their own wells, the expense and bedrock close to the surface makes that impossible for others.
Issues in Saugerties
A Saugerties community has also experienced issues with Hudson Valley Water Companies, but not to the extent of issues in West Hurley.
“There’s a question about when the last time the water tower this part of system was painted,” said Saugerties Supervisor Fred Costello. “The pumping station has received some upgrades in the last few years, which is markedly improved compared to what it was prior to that…There are still things that we believe should be done, and one of those is there is no generator to support that facility, or a way to easily connect a generator to that facility.”
The water tower provides a two-and-a-half day water supply to the district, but water cannot be pumped into the tower to replenish that supply in the event of an extended power outage.
“The residents will run out, so we understand that and we make that a priority when there’s an extended outage,” Costello said. “There hasn’t been that scenario in many, many years, but that’s something that we feel that they should do,” he said. “And during the time of crisis, when you’re sheltering in your home, that’s pivotal to making sure that’s a good way to shelter.”
Costello said Hudson Valley Water Companies has made “marginal improvements” based on the town’s inquiries, but it is still lacking. “From our perspective, we didn’t get a response that we feel is adequate,” he said. “We have problems and our problems relative to what those folks (in West Hurley) are experiencing are not as severe. I don’t want to diminish our problems at all, but I certainly don’t want to diminish the problems that those communities are experiencing because they’re real.”