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Comments on the East Fishkill Master Plan
for Public Hearing May 23, 2002 - by Don Groff

I'm Don Groff and I'm associated with the previous speaker, Dr.Rostenberg. I serve as technical support for the Fishkill Ridge Caretakers and the Fishkill Creek Watershed Coalition.

What I'd like to do is go through a bit of my background and then make some observations about the East Fishkill 2001 proposed Master Plan. Then say a few things about your groundwater resources, and then make recommendations that I think should be added to the comprehensive plan.

For years I was the director of hydrogeology at LMS Engineers. I spent considerable time in East Fishkill. I worked at IBM in a number of cases I was a project manager and LMS was subcontractor to Morris Associates, the Town Engineer.

One of our big jobs about 10 years ago was to make a townwide analysis of Fishkill groundwater resources. At the time the aim was to connect each water source for distribution so there would be enough resources for all and for industry. Also, I've had a number of contracts that gives me insight into the area and its natural resources potential. For example, I worked with Shenandoah Superfund site and was a reviewer for the EPA. Dean Maraldo is my EPA contact, and just yesterday he called to ask me if I would conduct a review Meadow Creek Industrial Park pump test and its protocols.

I notice in the 2001 Comprehensive Plan a fine list of parameters that have to be taken into consideration: residential zones, farming, commercial, industrial and the delineation of sensitive areas (i.e.: wetlands, streams and their setbacks). And I want to commend you for these efforts.

But is it enough? After all you have a complex resource here in your surface and groundwater. You have fine sand and gravel aquifers. But they are vulnerable to spills and pollution and some of the worst pollutants are 'sinkers' that settle at the base of the aquifer but continue to contaminate. In my experience, these have never been fully remediated, anywhere. And they are here!

And then some of these complex aquifers are confined, others unconfined. Delineating each of them and exploiting them to the public good, and making sure they have adequate stormwater recharge are real concerns in a growing area.

I can't find satisfaction in either the EIS process nor in requirements on developers by the 2001 Comprehensive Plan. Consultants may bring proposals to your boards and defend them for developers who employ them. They will do nothing to weaken the case for the developer. Their livelihood requires repeat business. Unless you have your own talent (in town), unless you can depend on your own resources to evaluate development plans, I'm sure you will not get complete answers from those consultants who represent development.

And then there's Fishkill Creek, which has in its upstream watershed "atomic lake". It carries small concentrations of nuclear material. You have the Sprout Creek Aquifer with its complex mix of permeable sands and gravels, which interfinger with impermeable clays. And Wiccoppee. Wiccopee groundwaters are shallow and contaminated with bacteria from Wiccopee Creek surface waters. Now let's consider those things that can contaminate. MBTE is one which travels fast and contaminates far; nuclear materials are water-soluble and solvent spills are yours forever.

What is the solution? I urge and I endorse the argument made by a prior speaker that you provide a clear picture in the master plan for water management. I think its possible that a municipal water authority exist here to serve you in this town to evaluate requests or proposals for groundwater withdrawals, and that approvals be based on the aquifer capacity and of its proposed groundwater uses and disposal.

Who can say what is provided in a SEQRA document that goes to the DEC? The DEC may disregard genuine local concerns. There is real concern that they are capable of oversight for some local activities. Frequently untrained DEC staff are assigned that oversight. For example, a New Paltz soil scientist oversees mine activities -- whether it be for sand and gravel or rock. DEC staff lack training and oversight in many areas assigned to it. You might find a mechanical engineer making an evaluation of an environmental condition. I've worked with electrical engineers who design septic fields. Their seal is no different from that of an aeronautical engineer. And do you want a aeronautical engineers designing your bridges? How to solve this problem? Well, there really is no solution for you on the local level.

About a month ago the legislature in Albany passed a law allowing surveyors to do hydrogeology under their engineering seal. They may not have had one course in Geology but they may do it, possibly without a college or university degree. Also, the legislature is allowing engineers to do the same. You've got to learn what training these engineers and surveyors have. Moreover, there is no New York State certification or test for Environmental Engineering in New York. Engineers of any stripes may provide these environmental services.

I recommend that you hire your own qualified municipal water authority to evaluate and permit groundwater withdrawals based on conditions of that aquifer and its proposed uses. You know better than Albany how to assign your local water. You know better than New Paltz any stresses on your lands and its aquifer - and you know better than anyone the future that you desire for these. And because you know better, through adequate planning and enforcement, you can serve the public better than the DEC.

Thank you.

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