Engineers will search for more water
By Jeff Simms
Engineers hired by Beacon officials will soon begin looking for new sources of water after concerns that the rate of construction in the city will deplete its current capacity.
Meanwhile, the City Council is expected to vote in September on a six-month moratorium on residential development while the issue is addressed.
Thomas Cusack, the senior vice president of Leggette, Brashears & Graham, an environmental engineering firm, told the City Council at its July 31 meeting that his firm could start immediately on a search for more water sources.
Last year, LBG and the city contracted with Turnbull Drilling to search bedrock sites at the Liberty Street water filtration plant. While Cusack called the sites “on paper, hydro-geologically favorable,” the exploration was unsuccessful, leading him on July 31 to recommended testing up to six sand and gravel aquifers at Beacon’s well site, outside of city limits.
Beacon Water Usage
The system capacity is 4 million gallons per day. In 2016, Beacon residents and business owners used 356 million gallons, the Town of Fishkill used 96 million and the state Department of Corrections (Downstate Correctional and Fishkill Correctional) used 218 million. Another 309 million were “unaccounted for,” which the water department attributed to system leaks, use in municipal buildings and operations, system flushing, fire department use, meter error and theft of service.
2016 average 2.679 million per day; highest 3.37 million
2015 average 2.523 million per day, highest 3.1 million
2014 average 2.398 million per day, highest 2.93 million
2013 average 2.223 million per day, highest 2.823 million
There are a number of sand and gravel well fields in the area that produce more than 3 million gallons of water a day, Cusack said, and the Beacon well site has the potential to produce a “substantial” supply. If it doesn’t, he said, a third but much more complex alternative would be to drill on undeveloped or open space along the Fishkill Creek corridor and elsewhere in Beacon.
In addition to drilling for more water, the city is planning to evaluate its three reservoirs to better gauge the capacity of its current supply.
The most talked-about figure over the last few weeks has been 17,800 — the population ceiling that Beacon’s 2007 comprehensive plan suggests current water supplies can support. A revision to the comprehensive plan adopted this spring doesn’t mention any population limit. (According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Beacon’s population in July 2016 was estimated to be 14,271.)
On July 31, Water and Wastewater Superintendent Ed Balicki said the 2007 calculation was likely based on now-outdated water usage statistics and did not anticipate Beacon’s quick bounce-back from the recession that began around the same time.
A new evaluation would include taking sonar measurements of the reservoirs. The 2007 calculations are based on the reservoirs’ acreage.
“This will look at our raw water supply and will give us a good idea of what buildout will be required for our system,” Balicki said.
At the same meeting, the council discussed the possible moratorium on residential construction, which, if passed, is slated to be backdated to July 3. The council could vote to extend the ban if the city has not made sufficient progress finding more water, said City Attorney Ed Phillips.
On July 31, the council appeared to lean toward exempting single-family construction but seemed undecided about including commercial building. It is expected to review a third draft of the moratorium at its Aug. 14 workshop. A public hearing would follow.
City Administrator Anthony Ruggiero laid out what the next several months could look like if the ban is enacted.
“In the six months we’ll look at a review of the data of our safe-yield study, our current analysis and our future buildout and population,” he said. “Then we’ll know where we’re at and where we’re going, and then we’ll make the determination to what we have to do as far as water resources and/or a zoning analysis — whether we downzone or do some other type of rezoning.”
Council members and Mayor Randy Casale encouraged Beacon residents to attend upcoming meetings or to email comments on the proposed development moratorium. See cityofbeacon.org/Government/citycouncil.htm.