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United Water Gets Public Rebuke From Jaffee

Nyack, March 6 — Hours before a final NYS DEC public hearing about United Water’s plan to build a desalination plant in Haverstraw, the water company received a vehement scolding from New York State Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee (D-Suffern) about misleading ads running in a local newspaper.

Calling the ad in Gannett’s Journal News a ‘€œshameless attempt’€ to suggest she is in support of the project, Jaffee says United Water’s ad promoting the project mis-characterized her position. ‘€œIn United Water’s quest to build support for a Haverstraw desalination plant, they have used my name and my words in a manner that I consider utterly unacceptable,” said Jaffee.

Here is the assemblywoman’s statement in response to the ad:

Their March 6th Journal News advertisement attempts to distort my advocacy for Rockland County’s water needs in a way that suggests my tacit endorsement of their project. This is flatly misleading, and fails to accurately represent my position on the project.

United Water chose to cite a statement I made while serving on the Rockland County Legislature many years ago, which merely stated that Rockland needed a long-term water plan. They then used this statement as a justification for their Haverstraw project, which I believe was a shameless attempt to imply my support.

It is also critical to note that this statement was made prior to the release of a study that subsequently called in to question the very justification for a Haverstraw desalination plant. While on the County Legislature, I fought for and won the commissioning of a study by the U.S. Geological Service, later known as the Heisig Report, which found Rockland County had more ground water than initially anticipated.

The Heisig Report also showed that further study of our water resources was necessary, as we still didn’t have a full grasp of the water need in our county. It did suggest a number of potential options to manage our water resources, but did not endorse any one over the other.

In light of this, and contrary to any ads run by United Water, I still believe that a desalination plant may not be in the best interest of Rockland ratepayers. Desalination is the most energy-intensive water processing method, and I am very concerned about pegging our water costs to our energy costs, which are subject to volatile upward swings of the kind we’re witnessing right now.

In fact, my concerns are so strong that they prompted me to request an extension of the comment period for the Haverstraw facility, which was granted after I built support for the measure among my colleagues in the State Legislature.

Tonight, I will be submitting remarks at the public hearing in Haverstraw that is a critical part of this comment period. I would encourage United Water to take note that, while my comments will outline many concerns, they will not be an endorsement of their project, just as none of my previous statements have ever been.

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