Saratoga County

Saratoga County water tests unsafe; customers switch

All three municipal customers of the Saratoga County Water Authority have stopped taking water from

All three municipal customers of the Saratoga County Water Authority have stopped taking water from the system until it reduces the levels of potentially harmful chlorination byproducts in its water.

The towns of Wilton, Clifton Park and Ballston have all stopped taking water in recent days, switching for the time being to other water sources. Between them, they bought at least 850,000 gallons a day, often more.

“It hopefully won’t be for very long,” said Wilton Supervisor Arthur Johnson, who also sits on the Water Authority board.

Water Authority officials said they’re working to address the elevated levels of a chlorination byproduct called haloacetic acids.

Quarterly tests by the state Health Department in August found potentially unhealthy levels of haloacetic acids in the authority’s treated water. The tests showed 70 parts per billion in treated water, slightly above the 60 ppb standard set by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

When the finding was announced Aug. 25, officials said flooding this spring washed high levels of organic material into the upper Hudson River, contributing to the problem. Now there’s a concern that the storm surges from tropical storms Irene and Lee may have added more organic material to the river water the authority draws.

Haloacetic acids are created when chlorine used to disinfect the water reacts with organic materials found in the water, such as leaf particles.

The Environmental Protection Agency says long-term exposure to haloacetic acids may be linked to cancer and other health issues. However, the EPA didn’t start regulating them until 2006.

The Water Authority has hired Delaware Engineering of Albany to develop both short-term and long-term solutions to remove more organic materials from the water at the county water treatment plant in Moreau.

Authority Vice Chairwoman Anita M. Daly, R-Clifton Park, said the authority understands that customers are concerned and may want to stop taking delivery for a while.

“This is not a public health danger, but they’re trying to be proactive,” she said.

The Clifton Park Water Authority has stopped buying water from the county until it knows the HAA levels are down, said authority Chairman Helmut Gerstenberger, but he expects that may only be a few weeks.

“Hopefully it will be a couple of weeks, if all goes as planned. These things happen,” he said.

Wilton, Clifton Park and Ballston all have other water sources they can turn to — groundwater wells in the cases of Wilton and Clifton Park and the town of Glenville’s municipal system for Ballston.

“I think it will be for a short period of time. They are working seriously to address it,” said Ballston Supervisor Patti Southworth.

The issue doesn’t affect the county’s largest water customer, the GlobalFoundries computer chip plant, which doesn’t use the water for drinking.

GlobalFoundries does extensive on-site treatment of the 1.5 million to 2 million of gallons of water it is using daily as it tests its manufacturing equipment and operations. It will use about 4 million gallons a day when production starts.

The Saratoga County Water Authority treatment plant in Moreau, which opened in January 2010, was built without an extensive ability to filter out organic materials, in the belief that Hudson River water coming from the Adirondack watershed wouldn’t contain many organics.

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