Rotterdam prioritizes water conservation programs

ROTTERDAM, NY (NEWS10) – Summer has arrived and that means Rotterdam’s water consumption, like many municipalities, is increasing with rising temperatures.

“It puts a significant strain on our water distribution system and the bulk of that, in our minds, is the sprinkler systems,” says assistant supervisor Jack Dodson.

Although the city’s water consumption is typically about three million gallons per day between October and April, during the summer that water consumption can reach 10 million gallons per day, according to city officials. town. During Wednesday’s meeting, the city council announced a new water conservation program to prevent police responding to calls about neighbors sneaking in with their sprinklers. Public works employees will respond more to re-educate than to reprimand.

“Then they just hang a hang tag on the person’s door or give it to them if they’re home, and that explains the watering times,” supervisor Mollie Collins explains to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton.

The city’s new approach reinforces a 2020 policy allowing homes with automatic sprinkler systems to be used on even calendar days for even-numbered properties from 1 a.m. to 4 p.m. and the same for odd-numbered properties on odd calendar days.

Properties using hand watering or hand sprinklers may use them between 6:30 a.m. and 8 a.m. and between 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. on the respective odd or even calendar days.

This is just the first of many city plans to address water issues before tackling the controversial DEC water meter requirement. A state official responding to NEWS10 said Rotterdam had long passed the March deadline to submit a plan detailing how the city will comply with residential water metering as a requirement of its building permit. withdrawal.

No alternative to water metering has been presented or discussed with the city at this time. DEC is currently awaiting a response and the city’s revised meter installation schedule and will continue to work with local authorities to achieve compliance.

NYS Department of Environmental Conservation

However, city leaders say they didn’t hear a glance from DEC after an April meeting with officials.

“From a regulatory perspective, we as a municipality can totally understand why a regulatory agency would come and say, hey, you want to keep increasing your withdrawal, but what are you doing to conserve water? We expect the DEC, if they seek additional information, to write a letter to the City of Rotterdam stating that this is the documentation we need from you, and we have not received that letter” , says Dodson.

“We are committed to having an open line of communication with the DEC. It’s important for them to understand that we take this seriously and that they are kept informed of what is happening and the actions we are taking,” adds Collins.

The city says it has focused on months of public information sessions to educate the public about conservation and remind them that their water meters are not in the immediate future.

“What we found in these two meetings is that our residents expect us to provide a certain level of service, and that’s a two-way street in my mind. The service does indeed cost money and they need to understand what the cost is associated with that. I think they have a much better understanding of that now,” Dodson says.

What they’re hoping for on the horizon are approved grants and applications to revamp the city’s aging pipes and infrastructure to get water to homes efficiently first, then consider measure. Dodson says the city has applied for $30 million from the state’s EPA Clean Water Revolving Fund and plans to apply in September for grants and low-interest loans under the law. on the improvement of hydraulic infrastructures.

The city also recently received a $1 million grant from Congressman Tonko’s office for sewage treatment plant upgrades. Council members say they find it more important to address these issues before focusing on DEC’s efforts to comply with its water metering requirements.

“From a city perspective, it’s kind of inconvenient to put meters on individual properties in homes if we can’t deliver water from our source to the tap due to our failing infrastructure,” says Dodson.

“We have also contacted private companies, different, just to get more information on leak detection programs and see what the cost is so that we can implement that as well and find out where our major leaks are? How much water are we losing? Collins explains in more detail.

“Who pays for these water meters? The citizens of Rotterdam are not, and if New York State has to pay for this, they should pay for other projects first,” adds Joe Mastroianni, Rotterdam City Council member and candidate for the NYS assembly.

Water meters have also become a hot topic as Mastroianni and incumbent Angelo Santabarbara race towards November elections. As NEWS10 has previously reported, a water metering plan and schedule submitted by the former Rotterdam City Council in 2020 originally projected that in-home installations could cost homeowners around $600. The DEC approved this plan in January 2022, but the current City Council later appealed to the DEC to grant an extension to revise the metering plan.

City leaders say they have repeatedly said that the original plan and its cost to homeowners originally planned by consulting firm Prime AE is no longer valid and does not reflect any future negotiations with DEC. However, Mastroianni says Santabarbara continued to push the cost to landlords as his main point of opposition during the election campaign.

“He continues to peddle this narrative to intimidate and scare the elderly, people on fixed incomes, people frustrated with inflation and the current economic situation. There are people who still perceive that the state is going to install water meters and that the citizens of Rotterdam will have to pay the extra $600 to install them. They think it’s a terrible government, so say no to water meters for everyone. That spirit was strong in Rotterdam, but the basis that drives that belief just isn’t accurate,” says Mastroianni.

For more than two weeks, NEWS10 has made repeated attempts to reach Assemblyman Santabarbara for contributions to this story. We have not yet received a response.

NEWS10 has contacted DEC again for clarification on the repercussions, if any, of Rotterdam remaining non-compliant with the department’s request for a metering plan. DEC officials only reiterated that the department is open to helping the city comply.

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