A water well proposal in Nishuane Park received a second round of rebuke Thursday night by residents in favor of preserving the parkland.
More than 30 people turned out at the municipal building for a second night to cite their utter disapproval with the township’s Nishuane Well Production Facility Project. The township’s plan, a 38- by 41-foot water treatment facility and 10-foot wide access road from High Street on less than half an acre of the park, is designed to better accommodate Montclair’s growth during the next 30 years.
“The sustainability of this supply source is – I don’t want to say infinite – but the projection ... forecasts it is a longtime sustainable source, ” said Andrew Holt, principal of Suburban Consulting Engineers Inc. who is helping oversee the proposal.
Director of Montclair Water Bureau Gary Obszarny said Montclair is expected to expand both its resident population and business sector in the coming decades, based on township and county figures.
Using information from the township’s yet-to-be passed 30-year master plan, he said optimistic projections in the next 30 years are:
- 3,500 additional residential units
- 500,000 square feet of retail space
- 500,000 square feet of office space
This kind of growth, he added, would require the township to provide an additional 800,000 gallons of water a day.
According to more “modest” estimates, said Obszarny, Essex County projects Montclair will add at least 2,400 residential units in the next three decades.
“If you are looking at the future with any growth,” said Obszarny, “even as low as the county or – as I’ll call it – the great expectation of the [township] ... you’re going to need a new well.”
Holt added that other projections forecast needing to provide about 10 million more gallons of water a month, and the three current wells in town do not perform to capacity.
“An increase of a demand of about 10 million gallons a month is an additional burden on our current resources,” said Holt. “... We no longer have what [the state’s Department of Environmental Protection] says on paper we have the ability to produce.”
Fourth Ward residents and those living near the park however were unconvinced, and pledged to prevent the project from ever happening. Nearly a dozen people cited environmental concerns and the loss of public space as key reasons for objecting to the facility.
“You have not given us a compelling case for building this well,” said Patti Grunther. “...It sounds like you people are trying to create the need.”
“You should know you will have some very committed people working against you, because we do not want that well there,” she added.
Many residents raised concerns over the air stripper at the proposed facility which will treat the water but also release additional compounds into the air.
On the pointed roof of the water well, an air stripper will be placed in the shape of a chimney that will treat or clean the water. The air stripper was installed because the testing of the well water found higher than permitted contaminants which Obszarny said were “not naturally occurring.”
The air stripper will remove the contaminants from water and convert them to vapor, which will be dispersed into the air. Obszarny emphasized that the compounds are well below those permitted by law and “not measurable contaminants.”
“The air stripper is the most economical and state of the art in the industry right now,” said Holt.
‘Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder’
The design of the facility was called “ugly” by residents, and many said it stood out and did not match the character of the neighborhood.
Obszarny said a redesign of the building was possible, and the architectural renderings shown at the meeting were still in the planning stages.
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” said Obszarny. “There are possibilities of modifying the building. We had to start off with something."