News > News > Safeguard Drinking Water > Rockland Water Coalition to receive the EPA’s highest honor

Rockland Water Coalition to receive the EPA’s highest honor

For Immediate Release: April 20, 2015

Contact: Cliff Weathers, Communications Director
914-478-4501, Ext. 239
George Potanovic, Jr., Rockland Water Coalition; 845-429-2020

Grassroots group that successfully opposed United Water’s plans to build a desalination plant on the Hudson River will be honored at April 24 ceremony.

OSSINING, NY — The Rockland Water Coalition will receive the Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Champion Award, the highest recognition presented to the public by the department. Members of the coalition will be honored in a ceremony to be held on April 24 in New York City.

The group was nominated for the award by Riverkeeper and Scenic Hudson for its successful efforts to halt United Water’s controversial plan to tap, treat and desalinate Hudson River water and pipe it to Rockland County homes and businesses.

“The Rockland Water Coalition is in many ways the ideal community-based environmental organization,” said Riverkeeper President Paul Gallay. “They are self-directed, laser sharp in focus, adept at developing partnerships and strategic in their goals.”

“While most New Yorkers would say that the ban on fracking is the crowning achievement of New York’s grassroots advocates in 2014, the achievements of the Rockland Water Coalition are equally impressive and may one day be seen as precedent setting,” continued Gallay.

The New York State Public Service Commission halted United Water’s desalination plans after receiving more than 1,500 comments from the public. Community activists, led by the coalition, demonstrated to the PSC that the conclusions about Rockland County’s water were based on faulty information and inflated water-demand projections. The coalition cited studies from the U.S Geological Survey and United Water’s own reports that equipment failures caused the private utility to lose track of how much water it was releasing from Lake DeForest, the reservoir which provides one-third of the water in the county. Armed with this information, the Coalition demonstrated to the PSC that the county’s water needs were not as dire as United Water had portrayed them to be and that the energy-intensive cost of desalination would nearly double residential and commercial water rates, while more demand-side water conservation opportunities had not been fully considered by the utility.

Eight years earlier, the PSC had approved United Water’s plan to build a desalination plant in Rockland. The coalition was formed, in part, to oppose the building and operation of the plant on a Hudson River estuary bay in Haverstraw, NY.

The coalition also convinced county officials to establish a comprehensive, inclusive planning process to create a sustainable water management plan based on conservation and smarter deployment of resources. Members of the coalition are now working together with county government and businesses, including United Water, to develop more sustainable Rockland County water policies through the Rockland County Water Task Force.

In a letter from the EPA notifying the coalition of their award, the department’s regional administrator, Judith A. Enck, congratulated the coalition for demonstrating outstanding commitment to protecting and enhancing environmental quality and public health.

The ceremony will take place on Friday, April 24, at 2 p.m. at the EPA’s offices in lower Manhattan. Media or individuals wishing to attend the event should contact Chris Sebastian of the EPA’s Public Affairs Division at 212-637-3597 or [email protected].

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