No More Plastic Bottles. Take the Tap Challenge!

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By Rebecca Martin

Tonight, it occurred to me. How many of us in Kingston are drinking water out of bottles?

What if everyone drank from the tap in Kingston instead?  How many  millions of new gallons would we be consuming?

Take the tap challenge!

 
1. DRINK FROM THE  TAP! Cooper lake is a beautiful water source. However, there is chlorine, fluoride and other things it picks up along the way to our taps through treatment and old infrastructure.  Recently, we invested in a filtration system in our home and it’s been terrific. It can be as elaborate or as simple as you can afford and do a really great job at removing some or all of the stuff our bodies don’t need.

Kingston tap water is quite acidic. Always add a little lemon. It changes the quality to alkaline! Amazing, isn’t it?

A SOLUTION:  We found a really great company called HUDSON VALLEY WATER RESOURCES. Their offices are located in New Paltz, but Joe the owner lives in Kingston! He is a real pro – and a pleasure to work with. Give him a call and get your water tested.  If you have other tips on local water filtration companies or ideas, post them in the comment section. It’s helpful to have resources on this front.  You know what else, by drinking more of Kingston’s tap water – we’ll be providing Kingston’s water department with more business.  That’s a win/win.

I love these stainless steel water bottles. Get yourself a big one and keep filling it up (and add lemon!)

2. POLAND SPRING IS NESTLE.  The next time you pick up a bottle of Poland Spring water, look at the dozen sources it is taken from and then shipped all around the world.  Think twice about buying Poland Spring or any brand that is taking water away from the community where it lives.

A SOLUTION:  If one must buy bottled water in Kingston, then go to BINNEWATER ICE who are truly a  local family business.  Offices with water coolers, lets get rid of Poland Spring. Call Binnewater instead.

Because after all, those looking to profit only sell what we will buy. Lets all think about that and take steps towards the tap.

VIDEO: Kingston Water Board Meeting 10/8/14

-By Rebecca Martin

Special thanks to Clark Richters of Kingston News for being available to film this meeting.

PART 1:
Rebecca Martin speaks to the Water Board
1:13 – 31:18

Water Board Approves Town of Ulster as Lead Agency on the SEQR Review
31:33 – 35:32

Cooper Lake Dam Project
44:32 – 55:17
“The Devil’s in the details” – Judy Hansen

Part II

Tech City request to hook up water in “building 29″ in the Town of Ulster. 
7:04 – 9:45

“…for possible sale….any negotiations we may enter into” (Tech City)
8:39 – 8:48

I do not believe that they have yet made a decision on this.  It sounds like Judy is sending all board members a digital copy of the letter submitted.

Part III

Town of Ulster Supervisor Jim Quigley addresses the Water Board “personally hurt”
1:20 – 3:08

Where are you in the SEQR process?  
3:09 – 6:44
We would like the DEC to take Lead Agency for this SEQR process. 

Niagara Consolidated Funding Application.  Judy says the ‘Will-Share’ was issued in April, 2014.
6:45 – 9:06
Judy asks why citizens would wonder if the Water Board was involved in the Niagara CFA?  Noone knew for sure, but it was thought that perhaps Niagara needed a ‘will share’ from the Water Department to submit in time with their application to be considered in the area. Knowing now that they had their letter from the Water Board since April, it gave them plenty of time to submit by June.  Who would approve a grant for a water bottling facility in unless they had a confirmed water source?  Unless they are trucking it in from elsewhere. It’s only logical, fellas. All of which should be looked into by any interested parties.

 

 

Presented by Rebecca Martin

I have some very specific points I’d like to make today, but before I do – I would first like to thank you all for your service to the Kingston Community. We all understand the enormous responsibility that you carry in making sure that the community’s water is safe and clean for the residents. Judy, I admire your long standing affiliation in Kingston City Government and know that the respect that you have has been hard earned.

We are here today, not because it is our wish for a fight, or a protest – but because we want to be useful. We understand that our community on the infrastructure front is in trouble and that bringing it all up to date, costly. But we also know that our Water Board making a decision to sell our water in this way feels short sighted, especially given the public’s need now for more information on the project, and in what other options might exist. What’s troubling is that the Water Board and Town of Ulster are far into this Niagara proposal and it was done without any input from the public. The project went to SEQR. That’s a final review process. The action wasn’t even all inclusive in its scope.

So you see, it shouldn’t be difficult to understand why what you referred to as ‘hysteria’ last night is simply the public’s concern. We not only want to understand the parameters of this proposal and how our Water Department came to the conclusion that it’s a good idea for the community – we also want to seek other options in solving our infrastructure needs. In working with citizens in this way – you nuture a trusting environment with your public – because after all, it is the public’s Water Department. You may be an indepedendent commission at this time – and that may actually need to change given things are far different today than they were back in 1895 – but you are still part of our local government which means our tax dollars are paying for every aspect of your work.

1. Niagara Bottling Company came to you in April of 2014. At what point did you hire an engineering firm to do an analysis of Cooper Lake and when was the Board’s “Will-Share” letter written and submitted to “The Chazen Companies”, Niagara’s consultant?

2. As you know, Niagara Bottling Co. submitted a Consolidated Funding Grant Application in and around June. Their proposal was somehow selected as a regional priority by the Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council in August of 2014. A month prior to the public knowing that their water supply would be necessary for such a project to come to the area. What was the Water Board’s role in supplying any needs for this application to be submitted?
- Judy Hansen: None. However, it is revealed later (video #3) that the Will-Share letter was submitted to Niagara in April.  I would suspect that they needed that in order to submit a CFA grant. 

3. The city of Kingston’s Cooper Lake’s Safe Yield seems to remain at the 6.1 million GPD. Is that correct? How does the Water Department go about determining this number outside of the 1957 drought?
- Judy Hansen: Last safe yield assessment was done in 1961.

4. Does the Water Board have an ongoing capacity list that includes yearly water usage of the community, contracts it has with other municipalties, etc for water use in the case of emergencies, promises to developments coming to Kingston, and the TOU for that matter as it applies. Can that list along with the Safe Yield be made available to the public each year so that we grow closer to our water source and our communities needs?
- Judy Hansen – The water department bases its use through meter reads.

5. The city of Kingston is a Climate Smart Community and convenes six times per year to strategize, plan and implement the goals of Kingston’s Climate Action Plan that was presented in 2012 under Mayor Shayne Gallo’s administration. There is an entire section on ‘Sustainable Resource Management’ and ‘water conservation and efficiency’ that includes protecting our water resources. A resolution was passed by the common council, signed by the Mayor. Was the Kingston Water Board ever a part of the Climate Smart Community effort? Has the board read the final report? With our Mayor sitting on the Water Board, was this report ever discussed while being advised as you were contemplating bottled water as a business that we wished to participate in? You can find the Climate Smart Kingston Plan by on the Kingston Conservation Advisory Council’s website.
-Judy Hansen – Participated in the Climate Smart Visioning, but never read the report or submitted it to the Water Board.

6. A SEQR review for the proposed Niagara Bottling Company is now underway with the Town of Ulster Town Board as lead agency. Do you understand that the City of Kingston and the Board of Water Commissioners were not listed in the Action of the EAF (Environmental Assessment Form)? As I noted last night, it appears as though segmentation has occurred and that’s illegal under SEQR – and if that’s true, then the Town of Ulster is in a very vulnerable position.

According to reports, the City of Kingston has not decided whether or not it will sell its water for the Niagara proposal. But given the TOU’s confidence and swiftness in SEQR makes it appear that maybe your minds are made up.

If the Water Board and the City of Kingston decides that it wishes to sell its water, it will trigger a SEQR review of its own. At that point, the City of Kingston or Water Board will have to list all of the and properly send out letters to express its interest in being a lead agency, if that is what it wishes to do. It only could if everyone comes back in agreement, too. Otherwise, the dispute would be handled by the DEC Commissioner. Those agencies and municipalities would include the DEC, the Town of Woodstock, Town of Ulster and others – and perhaps even the NYC DEP given that in the case of an emergency, the Ashokan Reservoir becomes involved as Judy informed us in her press release.
Following our conversation today, the Water Board signed off on a letter submitted by the Town Board requesting to be lead agency of the SEQR review. It passed. The city’s opportunity to be lead agency is now gone in this instance.

7. Finally, what I really want to impress upon you today is that the citizens coming last night, today – a week from today – and for as long as it takes are doing so because we want to be involved. We want to help. In light of this, has the Water Board orchestrated a comprehensive Capital Improvement Plan and presented it to the Common Council? Is 16 million dollars really all that you need to provide clean water to Kingston residents at this time? What are the long term needs and plans for water infrastructure? What if the City of Kingston itself orchestrated a Capital Improvement Plan that included Water. Solar. Composting. What would that number be? With Kingston’s bond rating in good standing, bonding is cheap for municipalities to the tune of somewhere in the 2-3% range as I understand it. Given that infrastructure is a hot topic nation wide – there must be State and Federal Funds that could offset the costs once we identified our overall need.

As a concerned citizen who today speaks for many of us, I urge you to slow this process down. Give us a chance to work together. Lets call a meeting with our council and identify the Water Departments needs so to begin a conversation on what other options there might be.

Thank you.

AUDIO: Kingston Water Board Meeting 10/8/14

By Rebecca Martin

Today at the Water Board meeting, a resolution was passed to approve the Town of Ulster as being ‘lead agency’ on the SEQR review for the Niagara Bottling Plant. We were told that the City of Kingston (i.e. the Common Council) had no authority to dictate whether our water was to be sold or not. That it was strictly up to the Water Commission. An appointed body by the Mayor of five people.

We also learned that the last safe yield assessment was performed last….in 1961. It is no wonder the 6.1 million GPD is based on the 1957 drought. The amount of water outside of what goes through their meters did not seem much in the way of being accounted for (contracts, development, population growth, etc.)

Below is what I presented to the Kingston Water Board.   Video to follow tomorrow.

 

Presented by Rebecca Martin

I have some very specific points I’d like to make today, but before I do – I would first like to thank you all for your service to the Kingston Community. We all understand the enormous responsibility that you carry in making sure that the community’s water is safe and clean for the residents. Judy, I admire your long standing affiliation in Kingston City Government and know that the respect that you have has been hard earned.

We are here today, not because it is our wish for a fight, or a protest – but because we want to be useful. We understand that our community on the infrastructure front is in trouble and that bringing it all up to date, costly. But we also know that our Water Board making a decision to sell our water in this way feels short sighted, especially given the public’s need now for more information on the project, and in what other options might exist. What’s troubling is that the Water Board and Town of Ulster are far into this Niagara proposal and it was done without any input from the public. The project went to SEQR. That’s a final review process. The action wasn’t even all inclusive in its scope.

So you see, it shouldn’t be difficult to understand why what you referred to as ‘hysteria’ last night is simply the public’s concern. We not only want to understand the parameters of this proposal and how our Water Department came to the conclusion that it’s a good idea for the community – we also want to seek other options in solving our infrastructure needs. In working with citizens in this way – you nuture a trusting environment with your public – because after all, it is the public’s Water Department. You may be an indepedendent commission at this time – and that may actually need to change given things are far different today than they were back in 1895 – but you are still part of our local government which means our tax dollars are paying for every aspect of your work.

1. Niagara Bottling Company came to you in April of 2014. At what point did you hire an engineering firm to do an analysis of Cooper Lake and when was the Board’s “Will-Share” letter written and submitted to “The Chazen Companies”, Niagara’s consultant?

2. As you know, Niagara Bottling Co. submitted a Consolidated Funding Grant Application in and around June. Their proposal was somehow selected as a regional priority by the Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council in August of 2014. A month prior to the public knowing that their water supply would be necessary for such a project to come to the area. What was the Water Board’s role in supplying any needs for this application to be submitted?
- Judy Hansen: None. However, it is revealed later (after Executive Session before Jim Quigley) that the Will-Share letter was submitted to Niagara in April.  I would suspect that they needed that in order to submit a CFA grant. 

3. The city of Kingston’s Cooper Lake’s Safe Yield seems to remain at the 6.1 million GPD. Is that correct? How does the Water Department go about determining this number outside of the 1957 drought?
- Judy Hansen: Last safe yield assessment was done in 1961. 

4. Does the Water Board have an ongoing capacity list that includes yearly water usage of the community, contracts it has with other municipalties, etc for water use in the case of emergencies, promises to developments coming to Kingston, and the TOU for that matter as it applies. Can that list along with the Safe Yield be made available to the public each year so that we grow closer to our water source and our communities needs?
- Judy Hansen – The water department bases its use through meter reads

5. The city of Kingston is a Climate Smart Community and convenes six times per year to strategize, plan and implement the goals of Kingston’s Climate Action Plan that was presented in 2012 under Mayor Shayne Gallo’s administration. There is an entire section on ‘Sustainable Resource Management’ and ‘water conservation and efficiency’ that includes protecting our water resources. A resolution was passed by the common council, signed by the Mayor. Was the Kingston Water Board ever a part of the Climate Smart Community effort? Has the board read the final report? With our Mayor sitting on the Water Board, was this report ever discussed while being advised as you were contemplating bottled water as a business that we wished to participate in? You can find the Climate Smart Kingston Plan by on the Kingston Conservation Advisory Council’s website.
-Judy Hansen – Participated in the Climate Smart Visioning, but never read the report or submitted it to the Water Board. 

6. A SEQR review for the proposed Niagara Bottling Company is now underway with the Town of Ulster Town Board as lead agency. Do you understand that the City of Kingston and the Board of Water Commissioners were not listed in the Action of the EAF (Environmental Assessment Form)? As I noted last night, it appears as though segmentation has occurred and that’s illegal under SEQR – and if that’s true, then the Town of Ulster is in a very vulnerable position.

According to reports, the City of Kingston has not decided whether or not it will sell its water for the Niagara proposal. But given the TOU’s confidence and swiftness in SEQR makes it appear that maybe your minds are made up.

If the Water Board and the City of Kingston decides that it wishes to sell its water, it will trigger a SEQR review of its own. At that point, the City of Kingston or Water Board will have to list all of the and properly send out letters to express its interest in being a lead agency, if that is what it wishes to do. It only could if everyone comes back in agreement, too. Otherwise, the dispute would be handled by the DEC Commissioner. Those agencies and municipalities would include the DEC, the Town of Woodstock, Town of Ulster and others – and perhaps even the NYC DEP given that in the case of an emergency, the Ashokan Reservoir becomes involved as Judy informed us in her press release.
Following our conversation today, the Water Board signed off on a letter submitted by the Town Board requesting to be lead agency of the SEQR review. It passed. The city’s opportunity to be lead agency is now gone in this instance. 

7. Finally, what I really want to impress upon you today is that the citizens coming last night, today – a week from today – and for as long as it takes are doing so because we want to be involved. We want to help. In light of this, has the Water Board orchestrated a comprehensive Capital Improvement Plan and presented it to the Common Council? Is 16 million dollars really all that you need to provide clean water to Kingston residents at this time? What are the long term needs and plans for water infrastructure? What if the City of Kingston itself orchestrated a Capital Improvement Plan that included Water. Solar. Composting. What would that number be? With Kingston’s bond rating in good standing, bonding is cheap for municipalities to the tune of somewhere in the 2-3% range as I understand it. Given that infrastructure is a hot topic nation wide – there must be State and Federal Funds that could offset the costs once we identified our overall need.

As a concerned citizen who today speaks for many of us, I urge you to slow this process down. Give us a chance to work together. Lets call a meeting with our council and identify the Water Departments needs so to begin a conversation on what other options there might be.

Thank you.

VIDEO: Public Comment 10/7/14 at the Kingston Common Council Meeting

 

By Rebecca Martin

Below is my speech from last evening. Any new information that was gathered today is underlined and in italics below.

Part 1 – Starts 49:25 – 58:20
Part 2 – Starts 0:00 – 2:53

###

There are many aspects of this project that I could address tonight but because I am here in front of my common council, I will be speaking on specific items that I feel are critical and that are in your jurisdiction to address and correct. These include gathering up-to-date reports and other important documents, organizing a fair and balanced public forum on the potential sale of Kingston’s water, reviewing how the SEQR EAF was submitted by the Town of Ulster Town Board, exploring other monetary options for improving infrastructure and finally, to consider draft text that I will submit for the start of a resolution to protect our communities water source both surface and ground water.

1) The COK’s Water Department Superintendent Judy Hansen with the support of the Water Board issued a ‘will share’ letter to the Niagara Bottling Company project. According to reports, the letter may not commit our water source but suggests that we have the capacity to achieve their request of 1.75 million GPD. Today, in a press release printed in the Daily Freeman, Hansen says that after Niagara contacted the Water Department in April of this year, the Board “engaged an independent engineering firm to conduct an impact analysis on the effects of the potential sale“ and that “preliminary results of that analysis suggest that the Department has the available resources to supply and treat the requested flows.”

My first request to the council is that they receive a copy of both the Engineering impact analysis and the ‘will share’ letter and to make it available to the public as soon as possible.

10/8/14: Alderman Brad Will submitted a request today for these documents. 

2)  So far, the public has had little to no information on the proposed water sale to the Niagara Bottling Company.

My second request – that the council host its own public forum on the proposed water sale with a panel that includes city officials, environmentalists and others to help round out the discussion – and provide plenty of time for public debate.  

The Kingston Advisory Council has organized a meeting on Tuesday, October 14th where Judy Hansen will present and answer questions on the Niagara Bottling Company proposal. 

3)  Based on a 2007 Final Generic Environmental Impact Statement (aka FGEIS), our safe or dependable yield was 6.1 million GPD. A safe or dependable yield is an annual amount of water that can be taken from a source or supply over a period of years without depleting that source beyond its ability to be replenished naturally in ‘wet years’. This number is based on a 1957 drought in our area.

Kingston’s Water Department website states that our community consumes 3.5 million GPD of Cooper Lake. Niagara is requesting up to 1.75 million GPD. If that were the case today, we’d be using 5.25 million GPD. A number dangerously close to our safe yield. We haven’t even touched upon the contracts or promises to development that are out there that may very well push us over our limit on a regular basis.

Sometimes you hear the argument that the COK sold 1 million gallons a day to IBM back when they were in our area. But did they use the full amount every day? Were they bottling and selling water across the country and shipping it out of the area? This comparison is apples and oranges.

In the City of Kingston’s charter, section C11-4 “Kingston NY Board of Water Commissioners – Powers” it states that the Water Board, “with the assent of the Common Council, may construct and maintain waterworks for supplying said city and its inhabitants with pure and wholesome water; exercise such powers as are necessary and proper to accomplish such purpose…”. I can’t see how the Council could ever uphold its responsibility here without updated reports on an annual basis.

I’d like to ask that our Common Council request an updated assessment of our safe yield not only based on a 1957 drought as well as a list of current use, contracts and promises made of our water supply for capacity to be known.

10/8/14:  We learned today that the safe yield was last assessed in 1961. Now the drought of 1957 makes a whole lot more sense as to why they used that as their measure.  I’d say we’re LONG overdue to reassess the safe yield – and that’s necessary to have updated before selling our water supply.  

4) A SEQR review is underway for the Niagara Bottling Company where the Town of Ulster Town Board is lead agency. The Environmental Assessment Form (EAF) submitted by Niagara’s consultant ‘The Chazen Companies” limited the action to construction which is what is known as segmentation and illegal under SEQR. Had the proposed action been more broad (and accurate) it would “include construction of the bottling plant and the contracting with the City of Kingston to supply water for that plant“. The list of involved agencies would have been longer and included the City of Kingston, Board of Water commissioners, Town of Woodstock and others, including potentially the NYC DEP.

Now, if the City of Kingston makes the decision to sell its water, an additional SEQR process will be triggered

I’d like to ask the council to please look at the SEQR EAF application and question the absence of Kingston as a participant.

10/8/14: To my dismay, after I spoke to the Water Board today, in the presence of Town of Ulster Superintendent they passed a resolution approving the Town of Ulster as Lead Agency of the SEQR process.  We were told that the Common Council had no say over the sale of water, and that their board (all of five members) were the only ones to make that decision.  Where was our Mayor? Not present, though he too sits on the Water Board. 

5) According to Judy Hansen’s press release this morning, it states that infrastructure improvements to our water supply would cost 16 million dollars. Has the Kingston Water Department created a capital improvement plan for its water infrastructure?

The City of Kingston’s School District, for example, recently did just that. For infrastructure and maintainance improvements, the overall costs would be $137.5 million dollars. After State aid, the cost to the taxpayers was $55,000. To approach this, the district bonded for a span of 20-25 years at 3-4%. The tax increase for a home valued at $200,000 was just $12.00 per month or $144.00 for the year.

To bond today is cheaper than it was back then at 2-3%. Money has never been so cheap to borrow. What would the cost to bond 16 million dollars do to our taxes? Increase them by pennies? Quarters?

I’d like to ask that our council look into other monetary solutions for water infrastructure needs other than the sale of our water supply.

6) Finally, it is very difficult for anyone to capture what is to come in the way of climate change. But what we do know is that a project like this, once they have a foot hold in the community not only take what is contracted – but can also place a great deal of pressure on elected officials to take even more. Niagara Bottling Company might very well be a ‘family run business’ but it is that to the tune of a 300 million dollar profit per year, selling water through the Costco and Walmart chains across America. It is my opinion that corporate concerns is profit and not people. Mayor Shayne Gallo and Superintendent Judy Hansen believe that they can place stipulations in the Niagara agreement that gives the public first priority in the case of drought. So far, given the way this process has been handled – it is reasonable to believe that their notion is naïve. Already, many assumptions have been made such as a decision to send out a ‘will share’ letter or to even consider supporting the sale of the public’s water source without ever going to the public to inquire first. All of what is happening today is unprecedented, and with the upcoming presentations by the Water Board in the weeks ahead is occurring because of public pressure. None of this was offered at the onset. Or how about the way the SEQR EAF was handled and submitted? Some of our former elected officials have cried ‘let the SEQR process play itself out’ when the Water Board and City of Kingston are not listed in the action and there are possibly other agencies and municipalities, too,  not even listed who need to be counted for in able for a fair review.

For these reasons, and more – I am submitting draft text and requesting that our Council as elected officials and residents of Kingston too work on a resolution to pass that protects our surface and ground water for not only us, but the generations to come. The people have the same common interest here and must protect natural resources for the benefit of the public. Not as a commodity to bottle and to sell.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Food & Water Watch Testifies at Kingston Common Council Meeting

 

BeauchampAlex-WEBAlex Beauchamp is the Northeast Region Director at Food & Water Watch. Based in the Brooklyn office, Alex oversees all organizing efforts in New York and the Northeast. Alex has worked on issues related to fracking, factory farms, genetic engineering, and water privatization at Food & Water Watch since 2009. His background is in legislative campaigning, and community and electoral organizing. Before joining Food & Water Watch, Alex worked for Grassroots Campaigns, Inc., where he worked on several campaigns including organizing support for renewable energy in Colorado, fundraising, and running get-out-the-vote operations. Alex graduated from Carleton College with a degree in political science. He can be reached at abeauchamp(at)fwwatch(org).

###

 

 

Alex Beauchamp Speech:  Starts 42:09 – 49:11

7 October 2014

Public Comments on the Proposed Sale of Water to Niagara Bottling Company

To the Kingston Common Council:

My name is Alex Beauchamp, and I’m the Northeast Region Director of Food & Water Watch, a national non profit that fights for our most basic resources – the things, like water, we cannot live without. I want to thank you for allowing me to speak.

I’m here today to urge you to oppose the sale of water to the California-headquarted Niagara Bottling Company, the “largest private label bottled water supplier in the U.S.”, according its own website.[i] The proposal would allow the company to withdraw as much as 1.75 million gallons of water a day from municipal sources, which could increase the Town of Kingston’s water use by about 40 percent,[ii] and potentially impact the water level of Cooper Lake and affect connected surface and groundwaters. As explained in a U.S. Geological Survey report, “changes in the natural interaction of ground water and surface water caused by human activities can potentially have a significant effect on aquatic environments.”[iii]

Water bottlers’ pumping operations can harm the environment and natural resources that communities may rely on for local farming or residential recreation. In fact, after Nestlé began pumping groundwater from a Michigan aquifer, water flows in connected surface waters fell to the point that mud flats developed.[iv] When bottled water companies tap water sources they do not replenish what they pump out.[v] This differentiates water bottlers from local irrigation and agricultural water users, who do return water.[vi]

In a drought this proposal could even affect the New York City water supply. This is not a theoretical threat, Cooper Lake faced drought conditions just a couple years ago in 2012 and they had to tap into New York City’s supply, the Ashokan Reservoir, until conditions improved.[vii] Folks in the Catskills and Hudson Valley know better than most that water is essential to life. The question we must ask ourselves is whether we are willing to put our most essential resource at risk. But the impacts of the proposal go far beyond Cooper Lake.

Bottled water poses huge threats to our environment – both here in Kingston and around the globe. The production of bottled water causes significant equity and environmental problems. These include taking water from communities that depend on it, polluting the environment during the production of plastic, contributing to global warming by transporting bottled water over great distances and irresponsibly disposing of billions of empty bottles.

The industry uses a significant quantity of petroleum and energy just to manufacture the billions of plastic bottles consumed in the United States each year.[viii] In 2007 researchers from the Pacific Institute found that bottled water consumption in the United States had the energy input equivalent of between 32 and 54 million barrels of oil – enough to fuel between 1.2 and 2.1 million cars over the course of a year.[ix] They also found that the manufacture, production and transportation of bottled water is 1,100 to 2,000 times as energy intensive as the treatment and distribution of tap water.[x]

At a more fundamental level, water is a public good, not a private commodity. We all depend on it, and the citizens of this region have paid for the existing water infrastructure with an eye toward providing safe, clean, affordable tap water for the benefit of everyone. Bottled water companies like Niagara Bottling Company profit off this public resource through false advertising and selling tap water in overpriced, health damaging, and environmentally polluting plastic bottles. Even worse, the proposal under consideration actually allows Niagara Bottling Company to pay less for this water than individual taxpayers, who own the system, do. Of course, we know that Niagara will sell the water at an enormous markup. Food & Water Watch has found that bottled water can be up to 2,400 times more expensive than tap water, making it an enormous waste of money for consumers.

Recent growth in Kingston shows that the natural amenities are important economic assets: taxpayers and businesses. Folks move and stay in this region for the amazing quality of life, and clean abundant water is at the heart of that. The concept of “surplus” water referred to in the proposal is not relevant here. Cooper Lake belongs to the entire community, and it must not put it at risk for a quick buck. Companies like Niagara bottling know they can come to communities to exploit their need for revenue, but to give in to this would be short sighted.

Once again, I urge you to protect Cooper Lake, our public health, our environment, and our climate by opposing the proposal to sell water to Niagara Bottling Company. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “When the well is dry, we know the worth of water.”

Thank you again for allowing the public to speak out at this meeting.

Alex Beauchamp
Northeast Region Director
Food & Water Watch
718-943-8068
abeauchamp@fwwatch.org

 

[i] Niagara Water. [Website.] Accessed October 7, 2014, available at http://www.niagarawater.com/

[ii] Nani, James. “Kingston studies supplying Niagra Bottling with water.” Times Herald-Record. September 10, 2014.

[iii] Winter, T.C. et al. U.S. Department of the Interior. U.S. Geological Survey. “Ground Water and Surface Water. A Single Source.” U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1139. U.S. Government Printing Office. 1998 at vii.

[iv] Madigan, Kate. PIRGIM Education Fund. “Left Out to Dry: How Michigan Citizens Pay the Price for Unregulated Water Use.” September 2005 at 13.

[v] Boldt-Van Rooy, Tara. ““Bottling Up” Our Natural Resources: The Fight Over Bottled Water Extraction in the United States.” Journal of Land Use, vol. 18, iss.2, Spring 2003 at 279 and 280.

[vi] Boldt-Van Rooy, Tara. ““Bottling Up” Our Natural Resources: The Fight Over Bottled Water Extraction in the United States.” Journal of Land Use, vol. 18, iss.2, Spring 2003 at 279 and 280.

[vii] Smith, Jesse J. “Kingston’s all dried out.” Kingston Times. September 13, 2012; Kirby, Paul. “Water level in Kingston’s drought – stricken Cooper Lake reservoir up slightly.” Daily Freeman. September 24, 2012.

[viii] Gleick, P.H., and H.S. Cooley. “Energy implications of bottled water.” Environmental Research Letters. February 19, 2009) at 1 to 3; “2011 State of the Industry.” Beverage World. April 2011 at S11.

[ix] Food & Water Watch Calculation, based on data from: Gleick, P.H., and H.S. Cooley. “Energy implications of bottled water.” Environmental Research Letters. February 19, 2009 at 6; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Office of Transportation and Air Quality. “Average Annual Emissions and Fuel Consumption for Gasoline-Fueled Passenger Cars and Light Trucks.” (EPA420-F-08-024.) October 2008 at 4; U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Energy Information Administration (EIA). “Frequently Asked Questions – Conversion Equivalents.” Available at http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=24&t=6. Accessed February 22, 2012.

[x] Gleick, P.H., and H.S. Cooley. “Energy implications of bottled water.” Environmental Research Letters. February 19, 2009 at 6.

It’s Our Water: Good Work! Standing Room Only at the Kingston Common Council Meeting 10/7/14

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By Rebecca Martin

Great work, everyone. Thanks for showing up and testifying this evening. Your support made the start to this campaign a successful one.

Special thanks to Kingston’s Common Council, who really were as surprised as all of us regarding the proposed water sale to Niagara Bottling Company.  A big thanks to Alex Beauchamp of Food and Water Watch. It’s great to have your support. Wasn’t it  fantastic to have the jazz musicians Jack DeJohnette and Larry Grenadier with us this evening? Did you guys catch that?

Thanks to  Clark Richters of Kingston News for capturing the entire evening. Video of tonight’s meeting will be available shortly.

Our next steps over the next two weeks are two upcoming meetings where we ask residents to be present to witness. Public comment may or may not occur – but our presence will say plenty.  They are:

Kingston Water Board
Wednesday, 10/8/14
3:00pm
Kingston Water Department
111 Jansen Avenue
Kingston

Kingston Conservation Advisory Council
Tuesday, 10/14/14
6:30pm
Council Chambers

 

There will no doubt be more to do – and I will be in touch. We’ll get there.

 

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DEP and the Ashokan Reservoir? More on SEQR and Agencies Involved.

eafscope

 

By Rebecca Martin

Today, a press release was printed in the Daily Freeman that was written by the Water Department Superintendent Judy Hansen.

In it,  the Ashokan Reservoir is noted as part of Kingston’s emergency water planning. I’ve bolded this text in the body of the press release below that states:

“The availability of back-up supplies like NYC’s Ashokan Reservoir is also part of our emergency planning. Kingston has the right to obtain water from the Ashokan Reservoir and was poised to access this supply in both 1957 and 1981.”

If I am reading this correctly,  it appears that the DEP (Department of Environmental Protection)  would also be an agency listed, if the action in the EAF had included Kingston and its water source (which it should have).

What could that mean? Maybe that there are grounds here for New York City to also have a say in this. It’s worth investigating.

###

For Immediate Release

Monday, October 6, 2014

Proposed Sale of Water to Niagara Bottling LLC

Kingston Water Department

As has been reported, the Board of Water Commissioners received a request from Niagara Bottling LLC for the sale of up to 1.75 million gallons per day (MGD) in April 2014. This request was presented to the Board at their regular meeting on April, 9, 2014. All meetings of the Board of Water Commissioners are open to the public as well as the media. Following that meeting, the Board engaged an independent engineering firm to conduct an impact analysis on the effects of the potential sale. Preliminary results of that analysis suggest that the Department has the available resources to supply and treat the requested flows. However, improvements to our infrastructure will be required to provide flows in excess of 1 MGD. Specifically, the installation of a 12-inch main parallel to the existing main, which was installed in the 1950’s to serve IBM, will be required to deliver flows to the proposed Niagara site in excess of 1 MGD. Similarly, a short section of transmission main would have to be installed near our distribution reservoir to accommodate any flows to the system in excess of 5 MGD. Both improvements are located wholly within the Town of Ulster. Discussions between the KWD and Niagara continue as Niagara works through its site selection process.

Questions have been raised in the media which focus on the wisdom of undertaking this sale as well as the adequacy of the City’s water supply during a drought or similar shortage. These are valid concerns about our drinking water. Undeniably, the Board of Water Commissioners recognizes that this is one of the City’s most valuable resources. It must be recognized that this potential sale is of only surplus water and should such surplus be limited due to a climatic water shortage or in the event of a water emergency the Department retains the ability to limit, restrict or even cease the supply to outside consumers during the duration for the protection of its residents.

Droughts/Shortages:

The Kingston Water Department has maintained records of seasonal water shortages since they are a fact of nature which the Water Department anticipates. Plans are based on the driest years. The impact of a drought on the system is a function of precipitation as well as demand. The water restriction directed by the Department which occurred in 2012 was not the result of a lack of precipitation. Rather, it occurred due to a structural issue at our intake facility that stopped the flow of water into the Reservoir and caused a significant drawdown. Regardless, the impact on our customers was the same.

The Kingston Water Department, in close cooperation with our regulators in the NYS Department of Health and the Ulster County Health Department, closely monitor the levels in the Reservoir and the Water Department has developed protocols to deal with potential water shortage. These include various conservation measures, which, at its most severe, could include the curtailment of all non-essential water use. The availability of back-up supplies like NYC’s Ashokan Reservoir is also part of our emergency planning. Kingston has the right to obtain water from the Ashokan Reservoir and was poised to access this supply in both 1957 and 1981. In both years, while the equipment to do so was deployed for protection, its use was not necessary. Much more recently, the capability to augment our flows from both the Towns of Ulster and Esopus was developed through the cooperation and partnership of all 3 municipalities. We are grateful to both of our neighbors for working with us to develop this inter-municipal cooperation. During an emergency, water can flow from Kingston to our neighbors or from our neighbors to us. NYWARN, the mutual aid association for water utilities in New York State, establishes the framework for such an arrangement and all 3 communities are members.

The drought of 1957 was the worst on record for the KWD and Cooper Lake was depleted to 45% of its capacity, leaving only 60 days’ supply in the Reservoir when sufficient rains replenished the supply. At that time, the population of Kingston was approximately 30,000 and the average daily usage was 5.5 MGD. This included a 1 MGD commitment to IBM. Despite the conditions of 1957, the Department was able to withstand one of the worst droughts in its history while using considerably more water. IBM continued to operate. Following the events in 1957, the KWD undertook universal metering and, as a result, consumption dropped dramatically. In addition, since that time, the population of the City has decreased by almost 20% and the daily usage, including the water sale to the Town of Ulster Water Districts and Tech City, still averages 3.9 MGD.

Additionally, as part of the Department’s continuing efforts to improve efficiencies, plans are in place to conduct a system-wide leak detection survey in early 2015. Although the Department is aggressive in repairing leaks, we lack the resources to conduct a comprehensive system-wide evaluation. It is anticipated that this work will further reduce usage in the system. Finally, increasing the capacity of Cooper Lake has been discussed various times by the Board since 1961. Earlier this year, prior to being approached by Niagara about this potential sale, the Board engaged a consultant to revisit the feasibility of increasing the capacity of the Reservoir. This would provide additional raw water for the next century.

Potential Benefits of Sale:

The Kingston Water Department, like most water systems in the US, is faced with an aging infrastructure and increasingly costly regulatory mandates. Currently, the Department’s capital improvement plan calls for more than $16 million in projects aimed at major system repairs, improvements, and regulatory compliance. All must be accomplished in the next few years.   In the past 3 years, $5 million was spent on construction of a new UV Treatment facility, reconstruction of our source water intake facility that was destroyed in flood events in 2010, painting the exterior of one of our 3 storage tanks, and replacement of broken water mains under the CSX tracks in the City. Later this year, we are beginning the final phase of renovations at its Water Treatment Plant, a project that is expected to cost nearly $2 million. Regardless of this sale, the remaining work must be done if the residents of the City of Kingston are to continue to enjoy an uninterrupted supply of high quality drinking water. Billing to our consumers includes itemization of a sewer fee on each bill. These fees are not retained within the Department to fund its operations and are turned over to the City Comptroller for the operation of the City’s wastewater system. The Water Board has addressed the upkeep of the system while maintaining rates for water use to the public which are among the lowest rates in the country. The KWD currently operates on an annual budget of $4 million, the lowest of any major City department. The annual payment for a $5 million bond is about $400,000 per year, with a term of 20 – 30 years for most of these projects. Considering that all of the revenue to operate the system comes from water rates and associated fees, the impact of borrowing $5 million dollars translates to a rate increase of 10 percent.   Like the sale of water to IBM, which lasted more than 45 years, the possible sale to Niagara has the potential to stabilize water rates for the residents of the City of Kingston for the foreseeable future since it would provide significant capital to undertake these necessary projects.

In the 1870’s, with typhoid a persistent problem in the City and significant losses due to structure fires, the residents of Kington defeated a referendum to establish a public water system citing a fear of increasing government complexity that would raise property taxes during what was a recessionary period. When the KWD finally came into being in 1895, City fathers very deliberately created it as a financially and administratively independent department of the City and placed it under the control of a Board of Water Commissioners whose sole responsibility is the management of the system. By insulating the Department from the direct influence of politics, it allowed the Board to focus solely on the parochial needs of the Department and provided it with a dedicated revenue stream. Throughout its history, the Board has proven itself to be a diligent steward of our drinking water.   As a result of those efforts, Kingston’s tap water delivers public health protection, fire protection, support for the economy, and the overall quality of life that we presently enjoy. The challenge for the current Board will be to make the necessary improvements to carry the system forward for the next 100 years.   Kingston’s future depends on their success.

 

City of Kingston’s Water and SEQR.

eafscope

By Rebecca Martin

I’d like to turn your attention for a moment to a critical aspect of the current SEQR process for the Niagara Bottling Company where the Town of Ulster Town Board is lead agent.

Have a look at page 1 in ‘Full Environmental Assessment Form’ (EAF) submitted to SEQR. In the ‘Brief Description of Proposed Action‘ where it says:

“The applicant (Enterprise Properties LLC) is proposing the construction of a water bottling facility on a 57.50 acre parcel of land at the end of Boices Lane. In addition, the project will involve the extension of municipal water and sanitary sewer services to the project site as well as natural gas and electric utilities….” etc. 

Why is this significant?

The ‘ACTION’ in the EAF for SEQR submitted does not include the City of Kingston’s water source when it is a key component.  Why wasn’t it included? Hard to say, but suspect it is because the City of Kingston has not yet made a decision. Given the EAF was submitted however without it is a concern in SEQR known as ‘segmentation‘.

The proposed ‘segmenting’ of the environmental review precludes a full environmental review of all of the potential impacts associated with the whole action, which includes the City’s decision to agree to sell its water and the Town of Ulster’s decision to allow the plant to be built and the DEC’s decision to allow water to be withdrawn from Cooper lake by the city of Kingston, and to allow Niagara to withdraw wastewater to the Lower Espous Creek.

The potential environmental impacts of all of these should be considered at the same time, through one environmental review overseen by one lead agency. That is what SEQR regulations strongly recommends: “Considering only part, or segment, of an overall action is contrary to the intent of SEQR.

What now? Could be any number of things. One of which may be that if the City of Kingston makes a decision to sell its water source to Niagara, a new SEQR process would be triggered. 

It appears that the Town of Ulster has jumped the gun – big time.  Outside of all of what is relayed here, in order to be a lead agency on a project this large where so many agencies and municipalities are involved would have required a letter from the Town of Ulster’s Town Board  requesting to be lead agency. At which point, every single agency/municipality would need to give consent before proceeding. If there were a lead agency dispute, it would go before the Commissioner of the DEC for resolution.    SEE 617: SEQR to understand authority and definitions.

As a reminder of what we are speaking of here, below is a photo of Cooper lake today taken by a local resident.

Cooper Lake. 10/4/14. Lower than the drought of 2012.

TODAY: Cooper Lake. 10/4/14. Are levels close to being as low as the drought of 2012?

Kingston's Cooper Lake reservoir in drought in 2012, where the water levels were down 12.7 feet.

Kingston’s Cooper Lake reservoir in drought in 2012, where the water levels were down 12.7 feet.

Kingston’s Water Supply. A Pop Quiz.

 

Former Kingston alderman: Plan to bottle city water was introduced in the late 1980s. Click on the link to read the article in the Daily Freeman.

Former Kingston alderman: Plan to bottle city water was introduced in the late 1980s. Click on the link to read the article in the Daily Freeman.

 

By Rebecca Martin

Click on former Ward 3 Alderman Charlie Landi’s photo to read the recent article in the Daily Freeman.  It has inspired a pop quiz.  Lets see how much we know about Kingston’s water supply.

The Questions

  1. What is Cooper Lake’s current ‘safe or dependable’ yield?
  1. What is the current ‘safe or dependable yield’ number based on?
  1. How many millions of GPD (gallons per day) does the City of Kingston and Town of Ulster consume? How many millions of GPD does Niagara wish to bottle and to sell? What is the total?
  1. What contracts are currently in place between the COK’s Water Department and local municipalities? Add these promises up and include them to the number above.
  1. What water promises have been made to development in the COK? What additional water needs may be necessary for future growth of economic development in the COK and TOU. Add that to the number above.
  1. What is the projected growth of  the COK over the next 50 years and it’s corresponding water needs? Keep adding.
  1. Had the COK’s Water Department Superintendent done an assessment of all of its water promises outside of its current usage prior to issuing a ‘will share’ commitment to the Niagara Bottling Co.’s Proposal?
  1. What’s in it for Kingston to sell their precious water source to Niagara, soon to be Nestle? Would said benefits out way the costs?

 

The answers (I wish I could turn them upside down so you couldn’t cheat)

  1. 6.1 million GPD.
  1. A drought from 1957. Based on a 2007 report. The 6.1 number that we keep hearing today was the same then. Seven years ago.
  1. 3.5 million GPD. 1.75 million GPD. 5.25 million GPD. Dangerously close to our safe yield without including anything else.
  1. You’d have to FOIL to find out.
  1. ?
  1. ?
  1. Nope. Nothing made available at least as far as we have seen. Still, some city officials boast of their support even without it. You can bet the Water Department are scrambling around now to put something together given the reaction to water and Cooper Lake and what has been a terrible public process given our water source is being considered to sell in this way. Request that all documentation that informed their numbers be attached.
  1. Kingston’s aging infrastructure is in desperate need of updates. Elected officials hope that by selling our water to Niagara, they could address the water dam at Cooper Lake and perhaps pipelines to Kingston. But in doing so, our new infrastructure may not have water to run through it.With interest rates as low as 3% (lower perhaps), could bonding for our needs be an option?  What would the increase be to our water bill?  Lets put that up for referendum to see how the public feels. I most certainly would prefer that option. Any day.

    There are rumblings that Niagara Bottling Co. is  in discussions to sell (or has already sold to) to Nestle. That all needs to be verified. In the meantime, google Nestle Waters and read what they are leaving behind in many economically depressed communities.  Not that the Niagara news reports are any better.  Hey, by the way – do you know who Niagara sells their water to?  Costco. Walmart.

    A “small, family business”. To the tune of 300 million dollars a year in profits from what I’ve read. In an 800 billion dollar business. That’s water and that’s why they are here.

    Niagara is working to come to the area with their taxes abated for 10 years. That means, they will pay little to no tax for the duration. Whatever infrastructure costs there will be in the Town of Ulster (say for the wear and tear of 260 trucks in and out of Tech City) will be placed on the tax payer. Jobs promised are nothing more than that. With a little research, the salaries they offer is not much more than $13 – $14 an hour.  Not even a living wage. Whatever managerial or engineering position salaries there are, there isn’t any promise that will all be located here. I can’t help but wonder how many of those 12o jobs for this project are truck drivers given there may be up to 260 of them.As for construction? Niagara applied for a CFA Grant and somehow rose to be endorsed as one of the mid-hudson regional economic development priorities in 2014 long before the news broke that Niagara was coming to the area.  What does that mean? That they are on track to receiving more pubic money for their build. How much? It isn’t clear. The budget that they submitted for the grant isn’t available. Would someone mind telling me what Niagara is actually paying for to set up shop here in the area?

    Without a good assessment of water use and promises/agreements made, there isn’t any knowing what lies ahead for us.  Water isn’t something that can be manufactured or replaced. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. Worst case scenario, does the COK have a secondary water supply in mind?  Imagine building new infrastructure at Cooper Lake only to have to then build it all over again someplace else because it is bone dry.  Will Kingston be drinking from the Hudson River like other river cities in the future?

 

READING MATERIALS:

Water is NOT a Commodity, Water is a Common Resource Fact Sheet

This is incredibly helpful, and especially the section titled ‘The Public Trust to help Safeguard Groundwater from Environmental Destruction and Privatization.


 

 

 

Kingston’s Cooper Lake “Safe Yield”. How’d They Come Up With That?

 

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Click on IMAGE to read the report.

By Rebecca Martin

According to this “Report on the Impact of the Proposed Hudson River Landing Development on Kingston Water Department” created in 2007, it says that “the COK had a daily water usage of 3.28 million GPD (today, it is at 3.5 million GPD) and that at that time our ‘safe or dependable yield’ was 6.1 million GPD.

“By definition, the safe yield of any water supply is the maximum dependable water supply that can be withdrawn continuously from a supply during a period of YEARS (how many?)  in which the driest period or period of greatest deficiency in water supply is likely to occur.

For Kingston Water Supply that period CONTINUES TO BE THE DROUGHT OF 1957

If we are reading this correctly, of note:

1. In 2007, the COK provided 3.28 million GPD on average. Today, that number is at 3.5 million GPD. No matter the size of the increase, it illustrates that our community will grow, as will our needs.

2. The 6.1 million GPD “safe or dependable” yield can be “used for a period of ‘years'”. Though not recommended in this document, if it were ever maxed – for how many years could Cooper Lake sustain? We are hearing that same number today in discussions regarding the Niagara Bottling Co proposal. 6.1 million GPD. Has it not changed in 7 years based on, say – climate change?  (the report was written in 2007).

3. The COK Water Department is basing the 6.1 million GPD safe yield number on the drought of 1957. That’s over 50 YEAR AGO.

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Based on just a little general research – and it all needs to be clarified – the drought of 1957 lasted 3 months. But in 1964 – 1966, a drought in the valley lasted 27 months? What about the 2012 drought? What were rainfall averages in the are from 1950 to today?  I’m guessing there is enough data out there for a more current number – and I’d say that it appears that hasn’t been done, and it sure should have been prior to the Kingston Water Department issuing a “Will Share” to the proposed Niagara Project.

Due diligence COK officials.