Fears of future drought amid floods

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:47

    After a weekend when the abundance of water brought misery and sporadic destruction to West Milford the fear of drought still hangs heavy on the minds of many. The New Jersey Geological Survey (NJGS) report has created mistrust and doubt in those who still fear water shortages may result if the proposed Eagle Ridge project is built. The NJGS report compiled by Robert Canace and Eric Roman attempted to alleviate residents' fears by claiming there was sufficient underground water to supply new homes without disrupting the resource to surrounding areas. House builder K. Hovanian is awaiting the outcome of an application to the Department of Environmental Protection by West Milford MUA for three new wells to be built to supply water to the proposed 280 new homes. The town's Environmental Commission reviewed the report on Monday night and was unimpressed by its methods and findings. The commission's chairman Stephen Sangle admitted he was no expert in hydrology however said "I really believe that the results and conclusions shown by the survey were based on what they call "concepts and simulations" and only time can really tell whether these assumptions are true or false, and if they are false it's going to be too late." Sangle also voiced concerns that "aggressive" water conservation measures may be required if the new wells are drilled including a ban on water sprinkler systems, car washing and water saving plumbing devices. The head of West Milford's Planning Department admitted at the Commission meeting that the town had no expert within the township qualified to review the report and argue against its findings. Expert studies were carried out by several professional hydro-geologists including Demicco and Associates, PMK Group and M2 Associates. All three reports concluded that the town's water supply would be unable to support a considerable increase in demand on its resources. The M2 report found during its research "Glacial geologic date and local public community water supply well data indicate that the glacial deposits in West Milford are not high yielding aquifers capable of sustaining large yields for prolonged periods." Dr Doris Aaronson, a professor at NYU and a vocal opponent to the Eagle Ridge project supported the Environmental Commission's concerns and went further alleging possible collusion within the DEP. Aaronson said "There have now been 5 independent studies of the available ground water supply in the Eagle Ridge area. All of them indicate that there is not sufficient water there for more development. How is it that 5 studies were wrong but only the one study of Hovnanian's hydrologist is correct?" Aaronson also said "…one study from a developer who would stand to profit perhaps $50 million from developing and then leave town is an interesting set of evidence! Some of us suspect that someone within the DEP may have personal, political or financial associations with someone in the K. Hovnanian corporation." A meeting was due to be held on Thursday April 7 where the Highlands Council will meet at Passaic County Community College in Wanaque and consider the Eagle Ridge project.