Two large settling tanks will be key to a fix officials at the long-troubled Central Bridge Water District plan to outline for county and state officials.
The water system, which serves roughly 560 people in the hamlet straddling the Schoharie County towns of Schoharie and Esperance, has pumped out a variety of problems for users for more than a decade, and officials year after year have assured residents they were addressing the problems.
Schoharie town Supervisor Gene Milone said the lack of sufficient funding continues to hamper efforts to rectify the situation. He suspects the small reservoirs, situated off Voege Road, are the primary issue. They are both small and often fill with vegetation.
“These are the conditions that exist, and they’ve been trying to overcome these problems for years,” Milone said.
Thirteen years ago, residents were complaining about pebbles and small rocks clogging their faucets and in some cases preventing the brown-colored water from flowing. Officials at that time cited several possible issues: the two reservoirs suffered from low flow and excess vegetation or the pipes were rusty and the water was being over-chlorinated and causing disinfection by-products to suspend in the water.
Issues have continued since then. Three years ago, residents were taking their laundry to a facility to avoid stains. The district considered trucking in fresh water then but decided against it after rain replenished the reservoirs.
State health officials have said they are powerless to step in because Schoharie County has a full service public health department. Ian R. Feinstein, Schoharie County deputy public health director, declined comment on the water system.
The system’s most recent water quality report shows a continued excess of trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids, sets of chemicals formed when disinfectants such as chlorine come in contact with vegetation and other organic matter, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Long-term exposure to either of these chemicals is associated with increased risk for cancers. Laboratory animals exposed to high doses also showed effects on the liver, kidneys and nervous system and the health of offspring.
The water quality report showed trihalomethanes were detected at 136 micrograms per liter, compared with an EPA threshold of 80 micrograms per liter. About 10 years ago, the EPA lowered the threshold from 100.
A running average of quarterly samples showed haloacetic acids at 159 micrograms per liter — more than twice the threshold of 60.
Milone, chairman of the water district’s governing board, said he and Esperance town Supervisor Earl Van Wormer III are meeting with officials from the state and county on Monday to pitch a plan aimed at improving the water. The district has purchased two, 1,000-gallon tanks that Milone said will be tied into the system to see if they improve the level of contaminants.
Milone said the water is currently piped directly into the system and treated, and he believes pumping it first into the tanks and then into the treatment system may help.
The county Health Department has been “leaning on the district” to take some action, Milone said, but that office can do little, short of fining the district, which would cost residents hooked into the system.
“We just don’t have the money to put in place what has to be,” Milone said.
Residents hooked up to the system pay $90 quarterly, or a total of $360 a year, for each connection.