Water Well Unwelcome in Nishuane Park, Residents Say

Montclair homeowners around the park spoke out against the well facility project at the second of two public meetings on Thursday.


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. 

Environmental Impact

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."

Carl Ben Witzig January 19, 2013 at 01:27 PM
3500 additional residents means an increase of almost 10% in population of Montclair. All those toilet flushes will surely require more water. And We will qualify for at least one more liquor license which will definitely be issued by law. It is hard to justify denying the water well.
ira shor January 19, 2013 at 02:47 PM
We do not need 3500 more people in Montclair. Who will profit from stuffing 3500 more into this already over-developed town? The Real Estate Developers will pocket the profits from this while town taxpayers will see no relief from ratables that require more town services and schools. The RE Dev have a 20-yr track record of over-building and under-performing, getting pilots and waivers which do not lower RE taxes for the rest of us even though they routinely promise tax relief as the outcome of their next project. Time to close the door on this failed and dishonest strategy.
D-Zone January 19, 2013 at 04:54 PM
To Carl. If, elected officials decided that more water was available in your area of residence than Nishuane/Carey; then, you would approve of a water/sewer facility. Chances of your neighbors agreeing, is not likely. I'm with you Ira! Less not forget, politicians (& association of) are getting rich from development/anything else they slip-in. This project may have already been approved without our knowledge.
Butterfly January 19, 2013 at 06:39 PM
so the town want to have a water well ca. 10 blocks away from an EPA superfund site? Really? http://cumulis.epa.gov/supercpad/cursites/csitinfo.cfm?id=0200997
Adam January 19, 2013 at 08:57 PM
Carl, it is 3,500 residential UNITS, not people. That is a 25% increase in the existing 15,000 units in Montclair! I'm in complete agreement with Ira on this. Butterfly, that links says the clean up is done. I'm assuming there is still a mess under ground where the source of the water is, but would like feedback from people more knowledgable on sights with hazardous contamination.
Butterfly January 19, 2013 at 09:40 PM
@Adam: the cleanup was addressing soil and surface contamination and the site was declared clean in 2009 or so. However over the past 100 years rain water etc will have moved the radium into lower layers and I am not sure whether the water at this site was tested for radium and its decaying elements. A regular water test is no good since it just tests again a very specific list of pollutants and I doubt that radium and its decay elements are part of this list.
CMFAS55 January 20, 2013 at 03:38 AM
We elected a real estate developer as mayor who specifically ran on a platform supporting development. Why is this a surprise? Good or bad this is the strategy....Montclair tries to grow its way to solvency. Those who wanted to cut some stuff and outsource were labeled tea partiers and rebuffed. The majority spoke and apparently we need a new water facility to support development.
Adam January 20, 2013 at 05:04 AM
CMFA, The majority failed to get educated, have an opinion and express their preference by voting. Apathy. Now we will get remnants of chemicals taken from the ground & emitted into the air. We'll also disrupt nature greatly with this facility & throughout town with buildings getting jammed onto parking lots near train stations. So sad.
tryintosurvive January 20, 2013 at 05:15 AM
I agree CMFA. The town voted for the development slate and now some people seem surprised when the council want to do things to support development. It is going to be 4 years of development and expect that this development will fund our debt reduction and services that we want. Not really surprising, but if people expected something else they will be disappointed.
Pamma January 20, 2013 at 01:17 PM
I say build the well. I believe the town is being proactive. Sometimes people are afraid of change.
montclairgurl January 20, 2013 at 04:10 PM
It's interesting that some of the same people who were most vehemently opposed to the slate that wanted to get our finances under control- and who labeled them as anti-tax zealots akin to the tea party - now bemoan the actions of a council that has a real estate developer Mayor who said we would envelop our way out of our financial problems. They are doing exactly what they said they would do once in office. The township payrolls will grow in the hope that once we have great services we can share them and developers will continue to get rich. It's the build it and they will come school of thinking.
Butterfly January 21, 2013 at 02:00 PM
Sorry, but there seems to be little proactive about this. The increase in residents is wishful thinking at this point. You can only be proactive when its based in realistic expectations. Do we have construction projects with a confirmed increase in residental units underway?
D-Zone January 21, 2013 at 08:47 PM
Who fears change? Have you noticed backyards are disappearing? Have you noticed (besides the recent storms) more trees are disappearing? Have you noticed people are being crammed into smaller spaces? Have you noticed street parking spaces are disappearing for 'Smart Streets'? Have you noticed sidewalk space along Bloomfield Ave is being compromised? I doubt any of the past council were developers. As one posted last week, 3,500 would equal 10 Centro Verde's. Turner, as well as, Susswein would have definitely capitalize on this 'Great Master Plan'. Developing around the railroad stations is a must...yes? Residents are being deceived. Lorraine, Rand & Glenfield Wells are more than ample. Nishuane/Carey Well is being built for outsourcing to other communities, including MSU. If, you are 'Against' increased ratables; then, sign the petition.
Jinx January 22, 2013 at 02:08 AM
D-zone - the problem with framing the question as being either 'for' or 'against' ratables is that it doesn't address the profitability of those ratables. Do we know the size of the market? The market price vs our internal costs? One problem with our current level of debt is that we need to be careful with how we spend our money ---with limited funds and overburdened residents we can't afford to invest in projects without understanding the real value AND the timeframe. Let's say there is a good business case but it won't be viable until 2020 (only 7 years out; the population growth figure is given a 30-year timeframe) - does it make sense to spend this money now? What's the rush on this?
Jay Bell January 22, 2013 at 06:31 AM
In other words, the people don't want growth and they're not interested in helping to increase the population of residence. To tell you the truth, I don't blame them. www.firebrandcentral.com
D-Zone January 22, 2013 at 03:23 PM
Obszarny & Friends (cozy alignment) are rushing to push the $2million project thru quietly and without dissent. They claim ratables will not increase; they claim it will be more beneficial for Montclair; they claim 5 years or so, etc. Jinx: "One problem with our current level of debt is that we need to be careful with how we spend our money ---with limited funds and overburdened residents we can't afford to invest in projects without understanding the real value AND the timeframe". True. Size of market: 2,400-3,500. Time frame: ASAP. Real value: According to Obszarny, selling to MSU and other municipalities.
Jinx January 22, 2013 at 03:31 PM
My point is that I'd like to see specifics. Where does MSU currently get their water and what do they pay? How much can we charge and what is the profitability? Since water is regulated industry prices are allowed specific increases. how can we ensure that our internal costs don't rise faster than allowable price increases? maybe this is a good idea --- but i don't see evidence of a well thought out plan or business case. what are all the options, costs and benefits. i don't think this is an unreasonable request.
D-Zone January 22, 2013 at 04:34 PM
Obszarny & Friends are incapable of answering numerous direct questions from residents who are aware of the planned project. No actual specifics. Definitely not a well thought out plan. That is all the more reason the petition need to signed (see thewayitis). To my understanding, Obszarny was against this planned project less than a year ago. What motivated him to change his mind? Why did Jackson, Russo, Dashield (or whomever else involved) did not appear at 1 of 2 meetings? It would have been nice if Senator N Gill was present.
thewayitis January 22, 2013 at 04:43 PM
D-Zone: I received an email from Dep. Mayor Russo last night (responding to my opposition letter that I'd sent last week) in which he explained that he was out of town on vacation with his family and that's why he wasn't at the meetings. That's a valid reason and I appreciate that he responded to me. I don't know what Mayor Jackson's reason is, or the others. Baskerville attended both meetings and opposes the plan. For anyone who has doubts or questions, kindly put them in writing to the Mayor and Town Council and be sure to cc the NJ-DEP also. We have until 1/25/13 for comments to be received. And if you oppose, please sign the petition. Thank you.
thewayitis January 22, 2013 at 04:48 PM
Here's the link to the petition. Also, folks may find the comments people are making in the petition enlightening. It is a good snapshot of how many residents think and feel about this project. Thanks to anyone who can sign and share this with your circle of friends. http://www.change.org/petitions/david-smith-n-j-department-of-environmental-protection-deny-the-application-for-a-water-well-on-green-acres-land-at-nishuane-park?share_id=CZdXxnuOAF&utm_campaign=mailto_link&utm_medium=email&utm_source=share_petition
D-Zone January 22, 2013 at 05:47 PM
Not to say Russo's response is not legitimate; but, this is his 4th time on the council. Nothing good happens. This is Jackson's second and more experienced with his intentions as well. Dashield never respond (Plainfield residents happy to see him go).
CMFAS55 January 22, 2013 at 06:57 PM
Did I read it right elsewhere - and D-Zone mentioned this too - that the plan is to sell the water to other towns and entities (MSU) until Montclair gets to a level of population that needs to utilize it? Maybe this is the start of their outsourcing of services approach to bring money into the town coffers. Is that a big money-maker and does it support a $2.6MM investment? Is it large enough to make many less concerned about losing some park land and more noise for some of the residents in the area? On that NIMBY issue, I look at this in the same vein as the discussions when the NJT train was set to run through Montclair on the weekends and when the rail crossings had to be upgraded to stop the trains from blowing loud whistles some number of times at every crossing. Many said that those who lived near the tracks have to expect train noise - even on weekends and deal with the horns - we needed weekend service and paying to upgrade the crossings was a waste of like $2.5MM or something like that. Meanwhile a large amount of the town would have had to deal with horns blarring 7 days a week if those folks had their way. Rather intelligence prevailed and we have the train from a limited spot (Bay St or is it Walnut?) on the weekends and we have the upgraded crossings to lower the noise pollution. Assuming this plan makes sense, then I hope a similar smart compromise can be reached here to make the locals happy, keep the park nice and give the town a source of revenue.
Mike D'Onofrio (Editor) February 13, 2013 at 10:12 PM
Update: New article posted about water well facility. Township received transcripts of the meetings. http://montclair.patch.com/articles/township-receives-transcripts-from-nishuane-water-well-hearings -- MCD


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