County Executive Metzger Pens Joint Letter to State Regulators Following Most Recent Service Interruptions and Poor Communications
KINGSTON, NY - Ulster County Executive Jen Metzger has called on the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) to take immediate action under Public Service Law 89-h (5) to remove the owner of Hudson Valley Water Company, Inc. and install a single operator in response to the company’s ongoing service failures. Town Supervisors from HVWC’s service area, including Hurley Town Supervisor Michael Boms, Olive Town Supervisor Jim Sofranko, Rosendale Town Supervisor Jeanne Walsh, and Saugerties Town Supervisor Fred Costello, signed on to a letter penned by the County Executive and filed yesterday with the Department of Public Service. County and State Legislators also signed on to the letter in support, including Ulster County Legislators Manna Jo Greene (D-19), Kathy Nolan (D-22), Eric Stewart (D-18), and Jeff Collins (D-23), and State Senator Michelle Hinchey (D-41) and Assemblymember Sarahana Shrestha (D-103).
“For far too long, Hudson Valley Water Company customers have been plagued by service interruptions, poor communication, and the company’s outright failure to follow its own Commission-approved Standard Operating Procedures and Emergency Plan,” said Ulster County Executive Jen Metzger. “It is unacceptable to leave hundreds of Ulster County residents with no access to safe running drinking water for days at a time, and it is high time for the Public Service Commission to find a new qualified operator to take over and operate this critical service.”
Hudson Valley Water Company, Inc., operates five pumping and distribution systems throughout Ulster County, including in Mount Marion, High Falls, Pine Lane-Hurley, West Hurley, and Boiceville. After a system failure began on December 16, the Boiceville system was left without drinking water service for nearly a month. This extended outage is the latest in a long record of outages, service interruptions, and poor customer service, and demonstrates the company’s inability to follow its PSC-approved Standard Operating Procedures and Emergency Plan.
The company’s failures have repeatedly resulted in officials having to step in over the years to ensure residents were properly notified of issues, including outages, boil water notices, service interruptions, and the provision of potable water during a system failure.
These issues were the basis of customer complaints about Hurley and Mount Marion systems, which prompted a Department of Public Service Investigation in 2019-2020. In June 2022, then County Executive Pat Ryan, together with Senator Michelle Hinchey and then Assemblymember Kevin Cahill, held a public hearing on HVWC’s request for a 20.6% rate increase, drawing residents from all five systems to demand service improvements. The company was granted just a 2.8% increase, due in good part to numerous complaints by residents and officials, and the company’s failure to comply with commission orders.
State Senator Michelle Hinchey said, “Access to clean water is a constitutional right in New York. Despite our repeated interventions as elected officials to safeguard this right, the Hudson Valley Water Company has consistently violated it, leaving our residents without drinkable water for years. This untenable situation, marked by frequent interruptions and extended outages, abysmal customer service, and questionable billing practices, cannot continue any longer. We are left with no choice but to urgently call on the PSC to replace the owner and restore safe, reliable water service to our communities.”
Assemblymember Sarahana Shrestha said, “The Hudson Valley Water Company has yet again left my constituents without drinkable water for weeks while seeking multiple double-digit rate increases. This latest series of failures by the HVWC offers yet another example of why essential needs should be invested in as public goods. Over the past year I’ve met with community groups, and county and local elected officials to figure out how we can bring immediate relief and long-term solutions to all those who have been affected. HVWC’s brazen flouting of previous, recent investigations by the Public Service Commission clearly shows that more accountability is required in order to restore essential, reliable water services to those in the region. We are thankful to our constituents and elected leaders for coming together on this issue, and we look forward to the PSC’s response to this urgent and necessary ownership transfer request.”
“The inability of the Hudson Valley Water Company to provide safe and reliable potable water was extremely stressful for our residents in Boiceville over the holiday season. I applaud the efforts by the County Executive’s Office to pursue a long-term solution to this ongoing problem and, hopefully, soon restore these family’s lives back to normal” stated Olive Supervisor Jim Sofranko.
“The Ulster County Department of Health has fielded complaints from HVWC water customers over many years and has repeatedly tried to intervene to ensure appropriate measures are taken to provide adequate service and quality water to these residents. It is beyond time for a solution that will ensure a safe and reliable water supply for these residential customers,” added Dr. Carol Smith, Commissioner of Ulster County Department of Health.
A copy of the letter is attached as a .pdf