Schenectady County

Panel to focus on threats to town wells

Tropical Storm Irene nearly took out Glenville’s wells last August, so town officials have charged a

Tropical Storm Irene nearly took out Glenville’s wells last August, so town officials have charged a new committee with assessing potential threats to the water supply.

During the storm, the rising Mohawk River flooded Pumphouse Road and came very close to the town’s wells. Because of that, the town is adding $1 million in flood insurance coverage.

“This past flood taught us that we ought to have insurance on that water plant,” said Supervisor Chris Koetzle.

About $500,000 is through FEMA and $500,000 through Cool Insurance. The town’s premium for its property and casualty insurance was lower than expected so it had extra funds it could use, according to Koetzle. It would also tap some money from its water surplus if needed.

For the longer term, the town has created the Wellfield Protection Committee to study any future threats to its water.

“We have such a precious aquifer that we don’t want to do anything that’s going to disrupt our water supply,” Koetzle said.

Leading the committee is Carl George, professor of biology emeritus at Union College.

George said the mission is to study the watershed and threats to the four-well water supply, which provides about 15,000 people with water.

Flooding is a major concern, according to George, because it can deposit large amounts of sediment on the flood plain and sometimes that sediment can be contaminated.

“Tropical storms Irene and Lee really beat the region up. There were real challenges to the water treatment plant,” George said. There are also threats by industrial activity including gravel mining and development, according to George. Improper disposal of pharmaceuticals can also contaminate the water supply.

Another goal of the committee, according to George, is increasing the community’s awareness about and interest in its water supply.

The committee is going to work with the Canal Corp. and representatives from the state Department of Environmental Conservation to guide them on how best to protect the resource.

The committee is trying to gather as much information as possible about the water system. George is asking people who have old records of the water network to pass them along to officials at Town Hall.

The other members include Public Works Commissioner Tom Coppola, water plant manager Roger Harrison, Director of Operations James MacFarland and Director of Planning and Economic Development Kevin Corcoran.

The committee will meet generally on the third Monday of the month at 3:30 p.m. at Town Hall on Glenridge Road. Next month’s meeting, however, will take place on Feb. 27 because of the President’s Day holiday.

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