ROTTERDAM – Town officials will update Rotterdam residents on the future of water meters in town at a public information session at the Rotterdam Junction Fire Station May 11.
The upcoming meeting was just one of several other measures approved at the town board meeting Wednesday evening.
Board member Samantha Miller-Herrera said she would ask that representatives from both the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the firm KB Engineering & Consulting attend the meeting.
Residents were notified at a March Town Board meeting that the state Department of Environmental Conservation planned to confirm a multi-year schedule to install water meters in town. Supervisor Mollie Collins displayed a water meter at the meeting.
The recent attention to the plan to meter or measure water use surfaced after the town learned in January that a permit approved by the DEC to allow the town to pump more water included a stipulation that its water usage must be metered. In 2019, the town drafted a Potable Water Metering Plan that suggested the town would install the meters within 20 years, Dodson said. The DEC responded with comments and then in March 2020, Prime Engineering, on behalf of the town, submitted a final plan that called for the town to install meters within the next six to nine years.
The town is now trying to evade having to put meters in, even recently calling on Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara to enact legislation exempting the town from having to follow through with the DEC regulation.
At the town board meeting this week, officials also called on state Sen. Michelle Hinchey to help enact legislation exempting the town from having to install water meters.
The Department of Conservation declined to comment on the potential legislation.
“New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) water withdrawal regulation promulgated in 2013 requires that all new public water supply (PWS) systems install customer meters,” said Regina Willis, a spokesperson with the DEC. “Any enacted state legislation could potentially change state regulations. DEC does not comment on potential legislation.”
The board also approved a resolution asking Sen. Chuck Schumer, Congressman Paul Tonko, Gov. Kathy Hochul, Hinchey, Santabarbara and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand to help the town secure grant funding for water infrastructure improvement in Rotterdam.
Part of the town’s plan calls for a water leak detection program to be implemented in town. Workers in the city of Schenectady’s program to detect and fix leaks would train Rotterdam employees under the proposed plan.
“We will have to enter into a memorandum of agreement or understanding to see if we can make this cooperative effort happen,” said Deputy Supervisor Jack Dodson.
The town is also starting a water conservation and public awareness campaign.
“I don’t expect any cost necessarily to be associated with it obviously as we move forward we would have to come back to the board and discuss it,” said Collins.
She said the town would work with teachers in the school districts on water conservation and spreading the message about it. Other organizations like the town’s Friends of the Aquifer group or the town’s conservation committee might be interested in helping with the campaign, she said.
The town also voted 3-2 to have the state ethics committee review Santabarbara for statements he made about what was going on with water metering in town. Town board members Miller-Herrera and Evan Christou voted against the resolution.
“I don’t think there’s any human value in this resolution,” Christou said.
He also said there was a conflict of interest since board member Joe Mastroianni has been petitioning to run against Santabarbara, but hasn’t formally announced his campaign.
Santabarbara blasted the the three town officials, Collins, Mastroianni and Dodson Friday for not holding public hearing on the issue that was suggested by Miller-Herrera and then proceeding to request the ethics review into him. He said that resolution “amount to nothing more than an attempt to turn a public policy discussion into a political attack.”