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.