Saratoga County

Ballston water tower work begins

More than seven years after it was recommended that the town of Ballston make upgrades to its 500,00

More than seven years after it was recommended that the town of Ballston make upgrades to its 500,000 gallon water tower near Route 50, a private contractor has begun work for a price tag exceeding a half-million dollars.

The project, which is the result of a state Department of Health-recommended inspection, includes sandblasting and painting the exterior of the tower. Sandblasting has been delayed repeatedly because of the weather and this has stalled the approximately month-long task of painting.

Work was initially delayed because the tower was also used by cellphone providers, according to town Supervisor Patti Southworth. She said the project had been at least four years behind schedule when she took office in 2008.

“It was a priority issue right out of the gate,” she said of finding a way to work on the tower.

Eventually, the cellphone providers agreed to locate their equipment on a monopole adjacent to the tower. The companies then reimbursed the town $182,000 for the pole and related work.

“We won’t have that same issue in the future,” Southworth said.

The work is being done now, Southworth said, because water usage is typically down this time of year and the town’s other water tower can meet all other needs.

According to Southworth, the safety of the tower and its water was never in question. “We weren’t in a position where the tower was unsafe to use,” she said, “but potentially [the state Department of Health] had the option … to tell us we couldn’t use it.”

It is unclear what regulatory authority would have allowed the state to shut down the tower, as town officials vaguely referenced 10-year upkeep standards, which Department of Health spokesman Peter Constantakes said were actually every five years and only recommended. Constantakes added that the town’s water quality was never in jeopardy.

Southworth said the town had anticipated spending about $400,000, but the lowest bid ended up being $579,550. The project is being bonded.

Town Highway and Water Superintendent Joseph Whalen said the major challenge with the project is lead in the exterior paint. Because of the lead, the tower had to be draped when it was sandblasted to prevent airborne residue. During this process, air samples are taken daily. Whalen said all the samples had been fine.

He was very complimentary of the contractor, who has been unable to get any work done when it rains. “They’re doing a great job, considering the weather.”

The paint job on the tower is a long time coming, and Whalen, who has been with the town for 16 years, said, “I couldn’t tell you the last time the outside was painted.”

Town officials hope the project will be done before the first snowfall. Workers estimate that they have about four more days of sandblasting before they can begin to paint.

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