Task Force On Water Quality Kick-Off Held
By Edie Johnson
Blooming Grove – Assemblyman Colin Schmitt gathered with eleven area officials from Newburgh to Rockland, along with Irina Gelman from the Orange County Department of Health, Jeremy Schneider of the Orange County Land Trust, and Jason West of the Wallkill Rivershed Alliance. Schmitt told attendees that he and his fellow task force members from the NYS Minority Party plan to tackle all of the emerging water problems plaguing our area; from PFOS/PFOA to algae blooms, to problems in recharge, aging infrastructure and wastewater disposal, it is going to be addressed.
The group will hold its first official public hearing at the at 6 pm on October 30, at Vail’s Gate Firehouse. He said that he feels the federal government has failed us on many of these issues, and it is time to take matters into our own hands. Participants will be testifying at the hearings and their contributions will provide a regional record of the area’s shared water problems.
Town of Blooming Grove Supervisor Robert Jeroloman thanked Assemblyman Schmitt for having his press conference at the Blooming Grove Town Hall and congratulated him on being named a co-chair of this task force, adding “One of the biggest problems here in Blooming Grove is our aquifers. Our aquifer does not stay within municipal water, it travels from one area to another so neighboring municipalities are affected over decades, allowing others to over-pump and introduce contaminants like chlorides into our aquifer system. This not only contaminates their aquifer but the aquifers in Blooming Grove, South Blooming Grove, Monroe and Woodbury. If we lose our water, people will not be able to live here anymore.” Deputy Supervisor George Doering, Jr. stated, “Like my colleagues, I’d like to congratulate Assemblyman Schmitt for this critical assignment. Water and sewer infrastructure issues are problems throughout the entire State but they are especially critical in some of the small towns and villages. The funding that is available to work on some of these issues is inaccessible to the smaller towns and villages. Village of South Blooming Grove Mayor James Lofranco added, “Assemblyman Schmitt has been working very closely with us in the Village of South Blooming Grove and given us a lot of support with grants that we have applied for that will help us with a new water filtration system. As you all know, the water issue in South Blooming Grove has been ongoing for a long time and continues to get worse so I truly appreciate all of Assemblyman Schmitt’s efforts and help.” Village of Washingtonville Mayor Joseph Bucco stated, “I’d like to congratulate Assemblyman Schmitt for stepping up and taking on this task. As you can see, it’s such an important issue because everyone that is affected is here today. I hope that we can all work together to find real solutions.”
Orange County Legislator, Joseph Minuta who represents New Windsor stated, “From my time with the Orange County Water Authority and now a County Legislator, I stand with Assemblyman Schmitt demanding that we no longer are given temporary solutions to fix our water problems but permanent solutions. Minuta added that he has met with Senator Kirsten Gillebrand about the toxic effluents from Stewart.
Orange County Legislator, Kathy Calhoun-Stegenga emphasized that parts of Blooming Grove Blooming Grove have been dealing with this issue for many years and in South Blooming Grove, even longer. I am hopeful that with Assemblyman Schmitt’s strong leadership and representation, we can bring about much needed change in this area and address the issues for not only today but for future generations.”
Town of Chester Councilman Vincent Finizia and Stephen Keahon of Preserve Chester emphasized the water issues that Chester is experiencing due to its rapid uptick in growth, and the need to be proactive.
Town of Monroe Supervisor Tony Cardone emphasized the particular problem that Monroe has due to the drawdown of water from the new Town of Palm Tree which has caused two residential wells to run dry. Because the water department is under the ownership of Kiryas Joel they have limited control.
Village of Woodbury Deputy Mayor Timothy Egan stated, “In the Village of Woodbury, water supply and sewer capacity are two of the biggest services that we provide to our residents. Over the past 10 years, we’ve been doing a lot to add additional wells, replace old wells and purchase additional sewage capacity but with the rate of development in Woodbury over the past couple of years, we are deeply concerned about our supplies. We are also deeply concerned that with neighboring communities like KJ drawing from their well the permitted 680,000 GPD could be exceeded without any oversight.
Jason West, President, Wallkill River Watershed Alliance added, honing in on the crux of the matter, “There is a saying in water activism circles, “Water is Life.” The water that flows through our communities is our responsibility whether we are talking about water supply or recreation.