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Nyack Sketch Log: Watershed Moment for Provocative Suez Proposal

by Bill Batson

A hearing to consider a provocative proposal from Suez Water, that includes a parking lot for its fleet next to Lake DeForest reservoir will be held on Wednesday, January 15 at 7:30p at Clarkstown Town Hall. The hearing occurs as a facebook group “Suez Stinks,” has gathered 985 members, all worried about the cause of malodorous tap water and a case against a 18.6% rate hike request by Suez makes its way through the courts.

Members of the public, who have the wherewithal to attend this sixth round in this public policy skirmish, will witness how much oversight the Clarkstown Planning Board will exercise in this urgent matter. The board deadlocked at their last meeting in August.

Maybe the spirit of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who was born on January 15th in 1929, will be present in the meeting room, helping reasonable people join together to hold the multinational corporation that controls our water supply to account.

Urgent Public Hearing

Clarkstown Planning Board

Wednesday, January 15
7:30pm
Town Hall Auditorium
10 Maple Ave, New City

Many residents in Rockland County have a bad taste in their mouth, not only from the drinking water, that was recently described as “Earthy” by some, but by the water giant’s efforts in the last decade to open a desalination plant on the Hudson River in Haverstaw. In December 2015, the NYS Public Service Commission agreed with the activists and said the plant was not needed, directing Suez, the company formerly known as United Water to focus, on conservation instead of desalination. Rockland ratepayers still had a hard pill to swallow. The never-built project’s planning expenses of $62 million were passed on to consumers.

The reservoir of goodwill for Suez has been poisoned on both sides of the pond.  In 2009, Paris, France said au revoir to Suez, and another private company that operated the city’s water resource. In 2016, County Executive Ed Day filed of an Article 78 lawsuit in NY State Supreme Court against the PSC and Suez-NY, relating to planning costs for the desal plant. “Rockland ratepayers are being hosed,” Day added.

A flyer circulated by local residents to mobilize turnout for the January 15 hearing accuses the company of failing to follow regulations to stabilize silt fences that protect the reservoir from contaminants.  Inspection site surveys’ from October, 2019 through Jan, 2020, provided by Clarkstown, reveal that Suez consistently ignored recommendations, failing to implement runoff and sediment control practices.

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If this is how compliant the company is while under scrutiny, how will Suez behave when the public and inspectors are not looking?

Approximately 12% of Americans get their water from the private sector.

According to the website Rapid Transition Alliance, “between 2000 and 2015, there were 235 cases of water ‘remunicipalisation’– the process by which a city, region or national government terminates or refuses to renew water concessions, leases or management contracts with private companies, in order to bring water back under public control.” Two of those cities included Atlanta, Georgia and the previously mentioned, Paris, France. The company that they flushed: Suez.”

Maybe water is too urgent a need to trust to a private, profit-driven entity? Maybe we must reconsider the very notion of a privately controlled water supply?

“In an emergency, you can survive without most utilities—electricity, gas, garbage pickup and, yes, even the internet,” observes Earth Matters columnist Susan Hellauer. “But without one basic utility—potable water—you can count your remaining days on one, maybe two hands.”

Read also:

Nyack Sketch Log: Lake DeForest, Where Eagles Have Landed, May 2019

Nyack Sketch Log: The Source of Our Water, July 2019

Earth Matters: The Suez Saga and Why You Care, June 2019

Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives and sketch logs in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Watershed Moment for Provocative Suez Proposal” © 2020 Bill Batson. To see more, visit billbatsonarts.com 

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Special thanks to Laurie Seeman, Peggy Kurtz, Jacqui Drechsler, Rick Tannenbaum and Susan Hellauer


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