Ballston is temporarily shutting off the water from Saratoga County.
The Town Board voted Tuesday night to stop using the Saratoga County Water Authority to supply its water, which was recently found in Ballston to be in violation of federal limits for harmful chlorination byproducts and had high levels of lead, according to town Highway Superintendent Joe Whalen. Glenville, the town’s secondary water source, will be tapped as the sole source of water for Ballston, just as it was in September 2011, when the same problem presented itself with the county’s water.
Water purchased from Glenville is slightly more expensive than from Saratoga County, said Whalen.
Ballston isn’t the only client of the water authority that is having this problem, as the villages of Stillwater and Round Lake both recently had water that violated the federal limits for the chlorination byproducts. Clifton Park, which also uses the water, has registered elevated levels of the byproducts but not higher than federal standards.
In the fall of 2011, Ballston temporarily stopped getting water from the county when there was a spike in the byproducts. The town relied on Glenville for its water for about two months, until the Saratoga County Water Authority took actions to reduce the byproducts, such as haloacetic acids.
Whalen said levels of the byproducts almost exceeded allowable amounts in Ballston again in 2012.
Saratoga County Water Authority acting Executive Director Ed Hernandez has blamed the recent high levels on weather events placing organic materials in the water. The water authority takes its raw water from the upper Hudson River in Moreau.
The byproducts are created when the chlorine used to treat raw Hudson River water reacts with organic materials such as bits of vegetation that naturally occur in that water. Because the byproducts accumulate over time, communities like Stillwater and Round Lake that are at the end of water lines usually have the highest byproduct levels.
“We had a long period of hot weather and a long period of rain,” Hernandez said previously.
Ballston Town Supervisor Patti Southworth said Hernandez has advised that there is no danger to Ballston residents, but she said it wasn’t worth the risk, noting that the byproducts are particularly dangerous to small children and pregnant women.
She acknowledged that the town might spend more for Glenville water and could risk punitive actions from the county water authority. “Under the circumstances, the most important thing is public health,” she said.
This was the sentiment of the Town Board, which unanimously approved the switch to Glenville. Board member Kelly Stewart said the town shouldn’t vote to switch back to the water authority supply until there are multiple tests showing safe water.
Whalen said the switch will not be without some challenges, as applying the right chlorine levels to the Glenville water will require a delicate touch.
The village of Stillwater responded to its water problem by installing an aeration system in its main water storage tank, and officials in Round Lake are waiting to see if that is effective before they take that step. Southworth rejected this as an option, saying the town shouldn’t have to incur major costs to clean up the county’s water.
The aeration projects for the two villages would cost less than $10,000 per town, but for the entire county, it would cost upwards of $350,000.
Whalen credited the water authority for actively trying to solve the problem but noted that it does seem to be a cyclical problem every year. He said his biggest fear is that the same problem presents itself next year.
In Clifton Park, where there were high levels of the chlorination byproducts, town Supervisor Phil Barrett said they’re monitoring the situation and have multiple water options, including Glenville and possibly Latham, if they decide to switch away from the county.
“We may stop buying from [the water authority],” Barrett said. “As we sit here today, I think we’re in a different place than Ballston is, but we are keeping a close eye on the situation.”
Ballston residents will be notified about the switch in a letter that will also inform them about the problems with the water authority supply.