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Township Wants To Place New Water Well on Protected Parkland

This is the first of two articles about Montclair's proposal to build a water treatment facility in Nishuane Park.


Editor’s note: This is the first of a two part story about the Nishuane Park water well project. Click here to read part two.  

The township contends its growth will depend on a larger water supply, but residents object to a plan to place a new water treatment facility on federally protected parkland.  

The township is proposing to build a $2.6 million public water facility in a known and viable well on the east side of Nishuane Park near the intersection of High Street and Orange Road. The township says the additional well is necessary to meet both current and future needs in Montclair. 

“You have to be proactive before you are reactive,” said Director of Montclair’s Water Bureau Gary Obszarny when it comes toward planning for Montclair’s current and future water use. 

Obszarny added the Nishuane well is the biggest in town, and if it were tapped, it would be the “best producer in Montclair.” 

However, the open space is protected through the state’s Department of Environmental Protection’s Green Acres Program, and the township will need approval from Green Acres to begin construction.  

The site at Nishuane Park was chosen because the well has been tested to be “a viable source,” said Andrew Holt, principal of Suburban Consulting Engineers Inc. who is overseeing the planning and approval process, “and Montclair Water is electing to advance that and develop it as a supply source to enhance [its] ability to meet demands.” 

On Wednesday, more than 80 people packed into the small conference room in the municipal building for the first of two public meetings about the project, named the Nishuane Well Production Facility Project. 

Residents’ comments, which were unanimously against the proposal to place a well in the park, will be used by the state to help determine whether to allow the land to be used for the project. 

The bureau wants to use the well in Nishuane Park, discovered 30 years ago, as a “new source of water” for the township, said Holt. The township currently has three production wells to meet the needs of nearly 100 gallons a day per resident in the township, according to Obszarny.

A 38- by 41-foot water treatment facility has been proposed to be placed over the well on less than half an acre of the park, in addition to an access road from High Street and a temporary workspace. 

The area around the proposed location for the building is bordered by a sleepy suburban street on one side lined with homes, and on the other with woods and parkland. It is down the street from Nishuane Elementary School, a public pool, two baseball fields and basketball courts.   

An air stripper will also be placed on the building which will treat the water from the well. While the air stripper will inject volatile chemical compounds into the air which are the byproduct of treating the water, Holt said the compounds will be at minimum amounts below those permitted by federal law and will not affect the air quality in the neighborhood. 

Holt added that the township needs to have more “redundancy” in its water system to meet the demands during peak hours, maintain water pressure in Montclair’s three pressure zones, meet fire and safety suppression, and also prepare for the township’s expected population growth. 

Development in town has been cited time and again by Mayor Robert Jackson and the council as the key to Montclair’s economic future. The township is also looking into how it can add a massive influx of business space in town. In addition, the Montclair Center Gateway Project is expected to break ground soon, a six-story building on Bloomfield Avenue that will add more than 330 units in its first phase alone.  

“We have a [township] master plan that anticipates redevelopment and additional development in the town,” said Mike Heenehan, an environmental consultant working on the proposal, “and we do not have an ability to serve those needs.” 

To compensate the state for using the protected open space, the township is putting up $130,000 which can be invested in parkland anywhere in Montclair. The water bureau recommended that some of the money reforest Nishuane Park and the area around the new water facility.  

Click here to read part two of the story. 

Jinx January 18, 2013 at 02:35 AM
From a presentation from the Montclair Water Bureau: ‘Montclair’s primary water source is from the North Jersey District Water Supply Commission (NJDWSC). Montclair is a partner in the NJDWSC, which owns and operates the 30 billion gallon Wanaque Reservoir and the 7 billion Monksville Reservoir. Additional water is obtained from three wells within the township: Glenfield Well, Lorraine Well, and Rand Well. The Montclair Water Bureau is responsible for the operation and water treatment of these local wells.’ Montclair’s water and sewer charges have been rising precipitously over the past 10 years - faster than even our property taxes. Why are these charges going up so much? Do we know? What is the breakdown of increases? Is it in the charges for the water supply from the NJDWSC? Our own management costs for our operations of the NJDWSC supply? Or the management and operations of our local wells? What do we charge our customers (Glen Ridge, etc.)? Does it cover our own costs? Who is overseeing this? It may make sense to develop local wells and water supply but I’d like to see the business case before we decide that we need to invest in additional wells, treatment facilities and operations.
Jinx January 18, 2013 at 02:44 AM
I thought Centro Verde was 330 units for Phase I and II, not just Phase I as stated above. Which is right? If it is 330 units for Phase I, what is the total number of units for both phases?
allaboutthenumbers123 January 18, 2013 at 06:52 PM
Lets have an honest and open discussion on our water utility bills to start. The total water billings paid by Montclair residents have grown over 60% during the past 8 years. What is driving the increases? Could it be the salary and wages being allocated to the utilities out of the operating budget? OPRA requested materials shows that water utility wages should only be $800k, yet the budget docs on-line are showing $1.8M being paid for wages out of this utility alone. When the org chart wages for all town employees are compared to budget docs, over $2.5M of public safety wage expenses are being run through the water and sewer utilities. The number of employees earning over $100k, is #1 in Essex County. Our public safety expense on a per capita basis is one of the highest in Essex County. Help maintain the town's natural resources and open space by researching why our budget numbers are so much higher than surrounding towns especially given services being provided on a comparative basis.
Jinx January 18, 2013 at 07:44 PM
Numbers - I agree with you. We need to understand all the costs of our current water sources before we can make an informed decision about building the infrastructure and staffing for a new water supply. Also, what's the rush? The new TC plans to retire $2 of debt for each $1 of new debt issued (I like this). But that means a $2.6M capital project will require them to find a way to retire $5.2M of existing debt. Where will we get this? CentroVerde won't be built and occupied for a few years. I hope we don't rush to vote on a new well and build it in anticipation of development without first understanding our true costs and other options to meet demand. And finally, since the TC is focused on new development I hope they take infrastructure costs into account when they negotiate these deals. I remember someone asking this question during the CentroVerde discussion ("will we need any additional infrastructure upgrades due to this development?") and the answer from the town engineering staff seemed to be a confident "no".
ira shor January 18, 2013 at 10:14 PM
"Development" is a rabbit hole into which we throw our taxes. The Real Estate industry which controls this town and the Town Council have told us for 20 yrs that we need more ratables, more eatables, more eatables...as a smokescreen to push unwise, unneeded, and unaffordable bods on Mtc while our RE taxes only rise and rise despite all the new bldgs that make the developers rich and us not. The answer here is simple--NO to the Nish PK well, NO to any further development--we've been lied to, misled, promised tax relief that never arrives from throwing up yet more "ratables." Long past time for MTC folks to stop the runaway developers on and off the TC who are bankrupting this town and making it less liveable with each new grand project.
thewayitis January 19, 2013 at 01:08 AM
Please sign this petition to help save Nishuane park from the proposed water well facility. Ira Shor is absolutely right on. 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
thewayitis January 19, 2013 at 04:07 AM
D-Zone. Thanks. Trying again. Hope link works this time. 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
thewayitis January 19, 2013 at 05:13 PM
D-Zone. No worries. Thanks for the support.
christopher swenson January 19, 2013 at 06:08 PM
I attended both meetings. Couple of quick observations. This is not NIMBY, Frank. This is NIOP-Not In Our Park. The opposition included 3rd and 4th warders and some from other parts of town who have concerns about the environment, open space, water conservation etc. The opposition will grow when the details of the project are more widely known. The primary justification for this project, as stated by Gary from the Water Dept., is that there is a new Master Plan for Montclair that calls for 3400 new housing units (that would be roughly 10 CentroVerde's), 500,000 sq ft of new retail space and 500,000 sq ft of new industrial space. All in Montclair. The new Master Plan has not been adopted but is being pushed by the mayor. Welcome to the Developer's Ball. Currently we have 3 working wells in town. Two of the them are not being used at the moment, because if they were we would have too much pressure. The water department plans to sell most of the water out of the new well for at least 7 years, because, well, we don't need it. There is no urgent need. More on the finances and the location of the facility later. I'm thirsty.
frank rubacky January 19, 2013 at 09:56 PM
Chris, Not In Our Park is NIMBY, Not In Our Parks is not. The Fourth Ward will be MIA with the other park space that will be lost in Montclair. The Fourth Ward's singular issue has & is No More Development, but they overwhelmingly vote in a TC that is all about development.
A. Cathy Hawley January 20, 2013 at 06:30 PM
Obviously the last two posters did not follow the issue of the Mental Health Association BOA case. To set the record straight…South End 4th Ward WAS NOT MIA on that issue. We came out in full force, hired an Attorney and a Planner and won at the local level. However; MHA appealed to superior court and thanks to (1) the township attorney (Ira Karasick) who advised the township not to fight the appeal and (2) last minute change of Superior Court Judge, the South End 4th Ward (Montclair Residential Preservation Group) lost the appeal at the Superior Court level. Also, not all 4th ward residents voted for this TC. How comes when it comes to doing something in the South End of town it is labeled NIMBY however; when done in other wards projects are labeled – “against zoning, bad for environment, will lose green space, etc., but is never labeled NIMBY.” I don’t get this one. What are the residents in all wards of town going to say when they start losing air space, light, views, etc.? due to building on top of existing parking lots in town which is what the Mayor proposes to do? Request to change zone designations are being considered for the benefit of developers, giving of PILOTS and you name it, all for developers. Residents keep your eyes open because a shell game is definitely being played by this TC.
frank rubacky January 20, 2013 at 07:19 PM
1) I didn't follow the Mental Health facility NOR did I post on the Mental Health facility. 2) correct, 4% did not vote for this TC 3) I have no idea what other cases you refer to, but this case is NIMBY.
A. Cathy Hawley January 22, 2013 at 02:17 AM
As far as I know the house is still privately owned. Variance for a school was not granted. Don't know what they will propose next. The next thing on the agenda - is they are trying to re-zone lower Blmfld Ave to accommodate a developer so that he can build his building higher. It just doesn't stop.
A. Cathy Hawley January 22, 2013 at 06:29 PM
Cronyism is alive and well in Montclair. Boards and Committees are all being stacked with the Mayor’s people. What better way to be certain your developer friends get their projects through. We must pay attention and connect the dots, follow the bouncing ball and paper trails. Folks did come out for the Assisted Care facility on Church Street but to no avail. I didn’t hear about Plofker’s project on Bloomfield & Bell until after his variance got approved. Research Plofker’s projects – I believe most if not all required some type of variance. Isn’t it funny that he can’t seem to do his project within the guidelines of the zoning ordinances? TC is encouraging new development yet it’s a shame they aren’t doing anything to offer incentives to get the vacant (plenty of them) retail spaces re-occupied. What is on the drawing board…Oh yes – sell Police Headquarters and Municipal Building and become a tenant of a landlord that does not keep up his current property. This may reduce the debit momentarily but what do we do when the TC pi@%@# away the proceeds from the sale of the buildings on anything but reducing the debt. Then we are a tenant and over the years the rent will increase. Doubt that ARC (owner of Pathmark Mall) will give the township a life-time rental agreement at a nominal rent with no increases. How much you want to bet that this deal would include ARC getting a PILOT out of the deal. Shell games, shell games.


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