Sustainable Putnam

Clean water is good … and good for business.

Class C streams like this one in Fahnestock State Park flow directly into Class A streams and reservoirs. Photo courtesy of Gerry Katzban

Clearly, water protection is important to Putnam residents. On short notice, more than 60 County residents wrote their legislators to urge a ‘no’ vote last week on Legislator Amy Sayegh’s resolution aimed at vetoing NYS Senator Harckham’s Class C Streams Protection bill. And 15-20 more people waited over two hours at last Thursday’s County Legislature Physical Services Committee meeting to express their hope for greater protection of water quality, rather than its obstruction. 

Despite their arguments regarding the real need for this NYS legislation here in Putnam, Committee Chairman Albano and Legislators Castellano and Gouldman voted no, repeatedly uttering fears of burdensome regulation and negative impacts on business — without evidence.

Let’s be clear. Clean water is good and good for business. Just ask one of the residents or businesses in the Mahopac business district, Putnam Valley or other towns who depend on bottled water, municipal water, or elaborate filter systems because their wells have been contaminated by bad business practices. The truth is that water protection is generally only bad…for bad businesses.

What price would you put on our clean water, on our health, on our beautiful, healthy, diverse ecosystems?

So when you hear these attempts at changing the topic, ask this question. What price would you put on our clean water, on our health, on our beautiful, healthy, diverse ecosystems?

When they try to change the topic again, let them know that the correct answer is priceless. Clean water, our good health, strong businesses, and the ability to commune with wildlife in a beautiful environment are one and the same issue, and are essential to everything’s wellbeing, including business. You could say that maintaining clean waterways is a normal cost of doing business, not an “externality” or luxury to be evaluated in terms of private profit.

Because in the big scheme of things, polluted waterways, poisoned wells, parents paying for bottled water and expensive filters out of necessity (or worse, being unable to afford them) are obviously bad for the people served by businesses and the resources we all depend on.

It’s a widely-held myth among mainstream economists that environmental harm is an “externality” that generally isn’t factored into business balance sheets. As if clean air or water were beside the point. Of course, the opposite is true. The economy operates within the biosphere, from which it cannot be separated. The long term health of our economy absolutely depends upon the health of our environment. It’s all one. It’s all connected. We need to refocus the argument within this reality.

Native plants and other life in healthy wetlands and streams like this one absorb excess nutrients and purify our water. Photo courtesy of Gerry Katzban

Despite many additional arguments and evidence presented by residents, the Committee asserted that the County Soil and Water Conservation District already protects our streams. All three then voted in favor of asking Governor Hochul to veto the bill.

That was followed by much frustration among those attending because just minutes before residents repeatedly explained that State Senator Pete Harckham’s Streams Protection bill is necessary precisely because the County has failed to protect our water, citing examples past and present. One Town of Kent speaker described blatant and ongoing wetlands violations in his neighborhood and his urgent calls to officials — including the County Soil and Water Conservation District — that went without response. 

Take Action:

Next Tuesday, September 6 the full Legislature will vote on the veto resolution at 7pm meeting in Carmel. Sustainable Putnam urges the Legislators to vote “no” on the veto resolution. We urge the Legislature to decisively protect our water by hiring a qualified Director of the Putnam County Soil and Water Conservation District with a paid staff and resources.

1. Send an email to your County Legislator at [email protected]. See the sample letter below to get started: 
Sample Letter

2. Attend the full Legislature meeting this Tuesday evening (9/6) in Carmel. Just being present sends a message. If you wish, you can also share a comment. Click below to learn more:
September 6 Legislature Meeting

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