The water flows

| 29 Mar 2018 | 01:58

By Bob Quinn
— The Village of Kiryas Joel began drawing the first of the 612,000 gallons of water per day from property it owns seven miles away in the hamlet of Mountainville on March 19.
“This is a historic milestone for the village and it comes after many years of hard work, struggles and court fights,” Village Administrator Gedalye Szegedin said in the press release detailing the event. “We worked diligently to ensure that this project had minimal impact on surrounding communities; however, we realize that a project of this magnitude affected some of our neighbors to varying degrees, and we are thankful for the patience of anyone inconvenienced during construction.”
Phase I of the pipeline project includes seven miles of 24-inch pipe, two pump stations, two water storage tanks, emergency power generators, a water supply well and a treatment facility, all at a cost of $30 million.
It is a process that began in September 2000 when Kiryas Joel first proposed the construction of a 13.5-mile long water-transmission pipeline that would directly link the village to the New York City Catskill Aqueduct supply system to its northeast.
And it happened because Kiryas Joel takes the long view deep into the future.
At the turn of the century, 13,130 people called the Village of Kiryas Joel home.
Today, there are more than 25,000 residents. And that number is expected to double within a generation in what will become the Town of Palm Tree.
“The completion of Phase I will meet the present needs of our growing community and will further our efforts toward reducing the village’s reliance on local groundwater as our primary source of drinking water, a positive regional environmental benefit of this project,” Szegedin said. “We would like to thank our state regulatory agencies for their guidance throughout this project.”
How much is 619,000 gallons of water?An Olympic-size pool measures 50 meters (164 feet) long, 25 meters (82 feet) wide and a minimum of 2 meters (6.6 feet) deep.
That requires 88,286.7 cubic feet of water, or 660,430 U.S. gallons, according to the Patagonia Area Resource Alliance (
So that means the Village of Kiryas Joel can draw enough water to fill an Olympic-size pool to 92.6 percent of capacity every day.
Phase II Phase II of the project will include a 6.5 mile pipeline that will link Mountainville to the NYC’s Catskill Aqueduct in New Windsor, which will ultimately become the village’s primary water source. Work on Phase II is already underway with an estimated completion in 2021.
“Looking forward, I hope our neighboring municipalities will work with us to pursue a path of cooperation rather than litigation to resolve our differences,” Szegedin said. “We always prefer to work cooperatively with our neighbors; as together we can find solutions that benefit all sides and maintain lasting peace among our communities.”
Meanwhile, the Village of Cornwall-on-Hudson, the Town of Cornwall and the town and village of Woodbury have hired a firm to monitor the impact of the withdrawal of Kiryas Joel’s Mountainville well on the Woodbury Creek, Woodbury’s wells and other wells in the area.
“My concerns are that pumping 612,000 plus gallons per day could potentially have severe negative impact on the water table affecting Woodbury Creek, Woodbury and Cornwall municipal wells and private wells,” Woodbury Village Mayor Michael Queenan wrote in an email exchange with The Photo News. “The impact from the interbasin water transfer from the Moodna to the Ramapo could have irreversible environmental impacts to Woodbury Creek and the surrounding area.”
‘Bad planning’In a Photo News story published April 27, 2017, Orange County Executive Steven M. Neuhaus described the pipeline to reporter Douglas Feiden as “a textbook example of bad planning.
“Anywhere else in America, it would have been a regional pipeline and everyone along the line would have been allowed to tie in,” he added. “Instead, KJ controls the spigot and everyone else has to sit back and watch as this pipeline goes through their communities.”
The Orange County executive’s predecessors filed the first lawsuit again the project in 2004.
In that 2017 interview, Neuhaus said consideration should have been given to “condemnation” of the pipeline or other legal options so that neighboring municipalities could benefit.
But he acknowledged it’s probably too late now to pursue such remedies.
Today, there are no legal challenges before any court.
Seeking full disclosureIn February, Assemblyman James Skoufis introduced legislation to require full disclosure of all monitoring related to the Village of Kiryas Joel-owned well in Mountainville as well as all public wells receiving permits from the Department of Environmental Conservation.
Skoufis’ legislation would require the DEC to post results of well monitoring on its website in addition to all information related to water usage and conservation related to DEC-issued well permits. The disclosure would be publicly accessible for anyone to look up online.
From 2015 to late 2017, Woodbury, Cornwall, Cornwall-on-Hudson and a number of non-profits sought to challenge the DEC’s decision to permit the Mountainville well, claiming that pumping so much water would deplete nearby wells in addition to draining the Woodbury Creek.
However, the state appeal’s court ruled in Kiryas Joel’s favor, a decision that Skoufis said prompted him to begin working on the disclosure legislation.
“My proposal was introduced in anticipation of the Mountainville well coming online in the near future,” the assemblyman said in an email exchange with The Photo News. “While I’ve long opposed the Kiryas Joel water pipeline project on numerous grounds, it’s now important to hold the well and the DEC accountable to the many individuals in Woodbury and Cornwall who rely on the same aquifer.”