Hudson Valley Water Company Drowning in Controversy

Repeated water regulatory violations and an arsenic contamination of Boiceville’s water has brought the Hudson Valley Water Company (HVWC) under fire by the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) on Feb. 15, 2024.

This call to action came in an Ulster County news statement, by the urging of County Executive Jen Metzger, town supervisors and other county and state legislators who signed a joint letter to the New York State PSC on Jan. 9. The letter’s exigency resulted from a water contamination of System No. 5 in Boiceville, where the degradation of the arsenic filtration system left households without safe, clean drinking water for three weeks, from Dec. 16 to Jan. 8. Arsenic exists in high levels poses severe immediate and long-term health effects, from vomiting and abdominal pain to cancer development in the skin, bladder and lungs. Only trace amounts exist in groundwater, however.

This incident stands among several ongoing issues with the HVWC, as the letter cited issues of “service interruptions, poor communication with customers and the company’s failure to follow its own Commission-Approved Standard Operating Procedures and Emergency Plan.” For these reasons, officials called for the removal of Jeffrey Fuller, the president and owner of the HVWC, and the installment of a temporary operator that can “provide reliable service to customers at just and reasonable rates.” Fuller submitted a letter of his own to the PSC, responding and disputing the letter’s claims, but asserting the company’s openness to discussing matters of ownership transfer.

On Feb. 15, the PSC responded, launching an investigation against the HVWC, calling for the company to “respond to allegations about apparent regulatory violations … and why the Commission should not appoint a temporary operator to take control of the Company’s operations.” The PSC gave the HVWC until March 1 to comply with these orders — failure to comply would result in the installation of a temporary operator. Originally, Fuller requested an extension on Feb. 27, stating in his official request letter that “[he had] been out of the country … and [had] not had the ability to become fully aware of the circumstances.” However, the PWC had denied their request, with Michelle L. Phillips, the Commission’s secretary, deeming his reasoning “not persuasive.” On March 1, the HVWC submitted the requested Show Cause response, in a six-page letter responding to each claim made by the PSC. 

Though current strife exists between the PSC and HVWC, the issues predate this investigation, and the true tension can be found between the water company and its customers.

Many residents of these areas — which include Hurley, Olive, Rosendale and Saugerties — have issued complaints for years, including lack of generators, outdated measuring systems and inconsistent water service. Most recently, lead in West Hurley’s water pipes have been reported, with the HVWC notifying the town on Feb. 23, over two months since the initial testing period. 

No further updates have been provided by the PSC, but it is only a matter of time before substantial change will be made.

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