Contamination that originated at a site just north of Lowe’s Home Improvement in Glenville appears to be spreading south in the direction of private wells along Sunnyside Road, leaving residents with a difficult question:
Do they wait for red tape to clear before the state can remedy the contamination, or do they petition now to get on the town’s water supply?
After a public information meeting at the Glenville Municipal Center Wednesday night, it wasn’t clear which process would work faster to safeguard the public’s health.
“This all sounds terribly cumbersome,” said one resident after state and town officials laid out their options. “This is a public health issue. Something should be done about this now.”
But nothing can be done now about the contamination, at least not permanently. In the short term, the state Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Health have worked to put filtration systems into homes that request them, ensuring residents clean water and regular monitoring.
The contamination originated at 107 Freemans Bridge Road, site of the former Kenco Chemical Co., which handled swimming pool and dry cleaner chemicals. Around 2004, the first traces of contamination were discovered at a site further south. Official tests later found elevated quantities of tetrachloroethene, a known carcinogen that was present in dry cleaning fluids used during the last half of the 20th century. Further testing over the years showed the contamination had spread, with very low levels reaching the north side of Sunnyside Road as recently as last year.
Many of the homes along Sunnyside Road and in the nearby Sunnyside Gardens housing development use private wells for their water supply. Residents were appalled to learn Wednesday that a long-term remedy to the contamination wouldn’t be possible until early 2015 — in part because the property owner denied state officials access to the site from 2009 until last summer. DEC only won access after securing a court order.
DEC is currently in the process of completing an investigation and feasibility study that will identify permanent remedial actions and alternatives to be taken. This report won’t be complete until late this summer, and would require a subsequent public comment period before a final report and action plan could be implemented.
“If the timing of getting on public water is a major issue, then I don’t think you want to wait for our process to play out because it could take some time to get there,” said DEC Region 4 Director Gene Kelly. “It wouldn’t be until after the first of the new year at the soonest.”
That bit of news sent residents into a flurry of signature gathering even before the meeting was over Wednesday. The petition that went around the packed room was for a proposed water district in the area of Sunnyside Road. Once 51 percent of residents in that area sign it, town Supervisor Chris Koetzle said, the town would immediately schedule a public hearing on the topic. The water district would have between 104 and 108 homes. Only after the public hearing could the town take action, and even then hooking up houses in the district to a water main along Freemans Bridge Road would take six to nine months, said Highway Superintendent and Public Works Commissioner Tom Coppola.
The cost of hooking up to municipal water was a serious concern among some residents. A 2002 study of a proposed water district in that area put the hookup cost per household somewhere between $500 and $700. Still, the overall mood Wednesday was that health trumped cost.
“Quite a few of the residents are older and on fixed incomes,” said Margie Miller, a resident on the north side of Sunnyside Road. “It’s a toss of the coin whether the plume is going to hit their houses. But the bottom line is, can we be in a position to say, well I can’t afford not to have clean water?”
Anyone with questions about the contamination should contact DEC project manager Chris O’Neill at 357-2394 or firstname.lastname@example.org or DOH representative Stephanie Selmer at 402-7860 or email@example.com.