I-Team: Rockland Water Company Declined to Give Water Readings to Fire Department

A Rockland County fire department that sounded the alarm over dangers on out-of-control construction revealed to the I-Team Monday that the water company refused to reveal the pressure of water coming out hydrants.

Spring Valley Fire Captain Justin Schwartz said that Suez Water told the department it was "a matter of security" when it declined to provide information about water mains and the pressure and flow readings following a fire at an apartment complex in the village.

"We’re part of their homeland security," he said. "How can you tell me what I don’t need to know if this pump is giving me adequate pressure to get through the hoses here."

He said when crews tried to fight the fire at the complex, there was no pressure at the nearest, so they had to lay hoses more than 300 yards.

"Laying hoses takes time," he said. "That's a delay in response."

Several fire departments in the state, including ones in neighboring Orange County, told the I-Team they'd never had a problem getting water pressure readings from water suppliers.

Kathy Tolf, a firefighter who now works as a technology safety expert, said she'd never heard of water companies keeping that information from fire departments.

"We're not asking for critical infrastructure information that isn't available anywhere else."

The company initially gave the I-Team the same response it gave the Spring Valley Fire Department: "The information requested represents critical infrastructure information which cannot be released as a matter of security."

But Suez said Tuesday that it reached an agreement with the fire department to give the fire department a map of fire hydrant locations, along with their flow rates. 

"We are pleased that we can satisfy his department's needs while also preserving the security of other important data associated with our water system infrastructure," the company said in a statement. 

This latest issue comes months after an I-Team investigation revealed that Spring Valley failed to provide firefighters with safe equipment. The state Department of Labor issued multiple violations against the village after that report.

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