Installing a berm to protect the wells and developing emergency backup systems are among the top recommendations of a committee to safeguard Glenville’s water supply.
Town officials established the Wellfield Protection Committee last year after flooding from tropical storms Irene and Lee in 2011 came perilously close to the town’s wells on Pumphouse Road, which draws from the Great Flats Aquifer the sole source of water for the town.
“The well field is vulnerable,” said Wellfield Protection Committee Chairman Carl George, who is professor of biology emeritus at Union College.
The recommendations are to install the berm and raise the elevation of Pumphouse Road, which surrounds the town’s water treatment plant, so it will protect the town’s two outdoor wellheads.
George also said that town officials needed to be more prepared in the event that it does lose its water supply and develop backup systems with other municipalities.
“Have other suppliers ready to go. Know precisely what needs to be done,” he said.
Another recommendation is to start up other monitoring sites to test before the water comes into the plant.
Near gravel mine
The committee also expressed concern with how close a gravel mine is to the aquifer.
The permit issued by the state Department of Environmental Conservation allows gravel mining near the wellfield. George believes the town should work with Cranesville Block Co. to see if it would suspend its operation in return for compensation.
He pointed out that the company that is now SI Group bought from Bonded Concrete a 78-acre parcel of vacant land off Route 5S and deeded it the town to prevent the parcel from being used for mining. The former quarry has been turned into a preserve. “I think that was a decision that was very wisely made,” he said.
Another concern of the committee is the lock system. George said the committee wants the dams to be opened during a flooding event so water can flow, rather than the blockage that occurred, which created new channels around the lock.
The existing soil helped disperse the rising waters. That won’t happen during the next storm.
“The ground is not going to wash away like we did during Irene and Lee. We’re going to have elevated flood levels,” he said.
George acknowledged that these solutions will cost money, but said the first step is to educate the public.
“We have got to inform the 16,000 people who use this water supply about what problems are, what the potential solutions are,” he said.
Supervisor Chris Koetzle said it is very important for the town to protect those wells from flooding.
“It used to be these 100-year, 500-year floods happened once in a while and there was no significant threat,” he said. “There’s already a lot of data saying we’re going to see these floods more and more.”
There are other threats to the water supply, including leech fields near housing developments and a capped landfill.
Koetzle said the town will have to prioritize what it can afford. He said he is going to keep the committee going and praised its work. “If we went out and hired someone, it probably would have been a $100,000 report,” he said.
Kim Mosher, environmental health and safety manager for Cranesville Aggregate, said she had not seen the committee’s report and could not comment immediately on its recommendations.