Water quality on the decline again in Saratoga County

Friday, September 27, 2013
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— The Saratoga County Water Authority is again struggling to lower the levels of potentially harmful chlorination by-products found in its drinking water.

The authority itself isn’t out of compliance with federal regulations, but two of its customers — the villages of Stillwater and Round Lake — have been cited by the state Health Department for high levels.

The authority’s water is “teetering on the edge” of violating the 60 parts per billion standard for haloacetic acids set by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, said authority acting Executive Director Ed Hernandez.

Stillwater has installed an aeration system in its main water storage tank that may fix the problem, and officials are waiting to see whether it is effective before trying an aeration system in Round Lake, Hernandez said.

Stillwater has been cited twice since it started buying water from the authority last year, said village Mayor Ernie Martin.

“I’m very unhappy,” he said Friday. “When you get a violation notice from the Department of Health and you have to put it on your website and issue a public notice, everybody gets scared to death.”

In addition to the aeration efforts, the authority is planning to install a new wastewater discharge line at the water treatment plant in Moreau that officials hope will help. The authority is receiving a $1.5 million grant-and-loan package from the county Industrial Development Agency to pay for the discharge line and aeration systems.

“We are committed to solving the problem and are actively working to solve the problem,” authority Chairman John E. Lawler, R-Waterford, said during a discussion at an authority meeting Friday in Ballston Spa.

The by-products are compounds created when the chlorine used to treat raw Hudson River water mixes with organic materials such as bits of vegetation that naturally occur in that water. Because the by-products accumulate over time, communities like Stillwater and Round Lake that are at the end of water lines usually have the highest by-product levels. No other customers have been cited.

The water authority, which takes its raw water from the upper Hudson River in Moreau, had violation levels of by-products during 2011, but saw improvement in 2012, with some technical changes at the treatment plant and more frequent flushing of the system.

However, 2013 has seen the levels go up, for reasons officials believe are related to weather events placing organic materials in the water.

“We had a long period of hot weather and a long period of rain,” Hernandez said.

Generally, he said, organic levels in the water are higher in the summer than in the winter.

Officials think the discharge pipe that is to be installed at the treatment plant also will help, because it will send water that has been back-flushed from the plant’s filters back to the Hudson River. That water is now mixed back into the plant’s raw water.

It isn’t yet clear when that work will be done, though Lawler indicated he wants it started soon. The water authority is currently finishing the paperwork for securing its $1.5 million in IDA financial assistance.

The aeration projects in the small storage tanks in Stillwater and Round Lake may cost less than $10,000 each, but aerating the authority’s 5-million-gallon storage tank at the Luther Forest Technology Campus would cost $350,000 to $400,000, Hernandez estimated.

The authority sells an average of 3.5 million gallons per day to customers that also include the towns of Wilton, Ballston and Clifton Park and the GlobalFoundries computer chip plant.

 

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