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HomeNewsLand Swap for WJWW Approved by Westchester Legislature

Land Swap for WJWW Approved by Westchester Legislature

WJWW lobbied strongly for the swap; environmentalists oppose it

The Westchester County Board of Legislators has approved a controversial land swap for Westchester Joint Water Works (WJWW) that trades a property that has been already cleared for a filtration plant for a new 13.4-acre parcel adjacent to the Westchester County Airport.

WJWW plans to construct the Rye Lake Water Filtration Plant near the intersection of Tower Road and Purchase Street in Harrison, which is also part of the airport. Meanwhile, WJWW will deed 13 acres on the other side of the airport back to the county.

There is strong opposition to the plan, as we reported extensively, because, among other reasons, the plant will be in close proximity to contaminated groundwater containing toxic chemicals, including polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The chemicals were left behind after years of firefighting exercises by the New York Air National Guard until 1983.

Local groups objecting to the plant being built on the site include the Sierra Club Lower Hudson Group, the Purchase Environmental Protective Association, Purchase Friends Meeting and the Coalition to Prevent Westchester Airport Expansion.

But the majority of legislators disagreed. Legislator Catherine Parker (D – Larchmont, Mamaroneck, Rye) said “As an environmentalist, I believe everyone is entitled to clean drinking water. It is a basic human right. We do not want the residents of Westchester to end up like Flint, Michigan. This water filtration plant is essential to that basic human right for almost the entirety of those living along Westchester’s Sound Shore.”

WJWW serves about 100,000 residents in Harrison, Mamaroneck, Rye and New Rochelle, and was ordered to build a filtration plant by New York State in 2003 and by the federal government in 2019 to filter water from Rye Lake.

Last week the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized the first-ever federal limits on toxic PFAS in drinking water, establishing the Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) of 4 parts per trillion (ppt) for the two most widely-detected PFAS chemicals, PFOA and PFOS. The EPA’s limits are now stricter than the 10 parts per trillion that is the current standard in New York State.

Opponents say they will continue to fight against the swap, possibly with legal action.

 

 

 

Polly Kreisman
Polly Kreisman
Polly Kreisman founded and began publishing theLoop in 2007. She is a 15-time Emmy Award winning former television reporter. In New York she worked at WPIX TV, WWOR TV, WNBC TV and NY1. She covered politics on Capitol Hill in Washington DC earlier in her career. For the past several years she has pursued professional acting roles in film, television and commercials. She is the mother of twins and two baldly behaved dogs, and lives in Larchmont.

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Tom Murphy
Tom Murphy
April 18, 2024 6:43 PM

On a factual point the original sire was never approved for a filtration plant. It was vociferously opposed by the same folks who are currently opposing the much better site just approved for the land swap.

The new plant will provide clean drinking to 100,000 folks from diverse backgrounds who deserve that necessity. The opposition raised enough red herrings to fill Rye Lake.

I am grateful the Board of Legislators saw through the nonsense and took the correct action.

Richard Ruge
Richard Ruge
April 21, 2024 3:53 PM
Reply to  Tom Murphy

To be factual, the original site received local site plan and special executive use permits from the Town/Village of Harrison on June 21, 2005. One person brought a lawsuit challenging the permits after construction began.

The new plant may serve, at most, 88,000 residents. Due to the water system configuration, it won’t serve this number until additional system improvements are made – this is according to the documents prepared by the engineers on the project.

The groups opposing building in a PFAS contaminated brown field listed in the article include the Sierra Club, Purchase Friends Meeting, and the Coalition to Prevent Westchester Airport Expansion. These groups DID NOT oppose the original site. And some neighbors that are included in the group did not live in the area when the first plant was proposed. In fact, they were surprised to hear that construction had begun on the original site and was halted wasting over 6 million dollars.

And just this past Friday the EPA designated PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances under the Superfund law. This means that the spill at Hangar E, which was omitted from the SEQRA for the project, could be a superfund site.

Do we really need to build in an area that may be classified as a superfund site that could contaminate the water supply for over 8 million people when there is an alternative?

To be clear the only thing that may fill Rye Lake is PFAS and if red herrings were a fresh water fish, they’d be contaminated too.

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