Water committee member calls for community input for dealing with chemicals

— Photo by Jaycek Dylag

The Environmental Protection Agency sets standards so that Americans can have confidence, when they turn on a tap, the municipal water they will be drinking is safe.

RENSSELAERVILLE — The Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to issue a formal notice to the town of Rensselaerville over its frequent water-quality violations, according to water and sewer advisory committee member Ed Csukas, who spoke at a town board meeting last month. 

The EPA’s regional deputy director of public affairs, Elías Rodríguez, told The Enterprise that the agency does not comment on “ongoing or potentially ongoing enforcement actions.”

A notice from the EPA would be an administrative enforcement action that alerts the town to the violation, but does not involve legal action, according to the agency website; the agency could also order the town to fix the problem, and impose a penalty.

It is not clear how Csukas learned of any impending notice as he could not be reached by The Enterprise despite repeated inquiry. Water operator John Bensen also could not be reached, and Supervisor John Dolce was not immediately available for comment this week.  

Csukas had told the town board that Rensselaerville had come “come up on the EPA’s radar … because of the number of times that we’ve fallen below acceptable parameters, and they are going to be issuing a formal notice to the town.”

“But that actually probably won’t be for a couple of months,” Csukas said. “So, not sure if you’re aware of that, but don’t be surprised when that comes in.” 

The Rensselaerville water district, which sources its water from Lake Myosotis, has been dealing with high levels of disinfection by-products for at least the last couple of years — specifically total trihalomethanes and (TTHMs) and haloacetic acids 5 (HAA5), which result from chlorine interacting with organic aquamatter like the kind common in surface water, according to the 2021 Rensselaerville Water Quality Report

These groups of chemicals are generally believed to increase the risk of cancer and other illness after years of exposure above the regulated levels, according to the EPA. However, the Centers for Disease Control considers them considerably less dangerous than pathogens that disinfectants are meant to eliminate. 

In 2021, Rensselaerville exceeded the HAA5 limit of 60 micrograms per liter with a total of 136.9 micrograms/L; and had exceeded the TTHMs limit of 80 micrograms/L with a total of 101.15 micrograms/L. The town had also exceeded the limit for HAA% in 2020, though only by one microgram. 

From 2015 to 2019, the HAA5 average had generally hovered right around the regulatory limit, without surpassing it, while TTHMs were well below the limit. 

Town Clerk Victoria Kraker told the town board in December that recent upgrades had been very effective in decreasing the contamination levels to “significantly below” the standards, but that violation notices sent by the town to water district users would still be required because the average levels were still high due to the high levels seen earlier in the year. 

Last month, Csukas told the town board, however, that there was still “a lot of work” to do, and that it would likely take “quite a bit of time.” 

He said that the committee and town would need to “engage the community because we need their input” on solutions and alternatives, and that “the committee alone can’t make the decisions for the district.”

More Hilltowns News

  • The Rensselaerville Post Office is expected to move to another location within the 12147 ZIP code, according to a United States Postal Service flier, and the public is invited to submit comments on the proposal by mail. 

  • Anthony Esposito, who lost his house along State Route 145 in Rensselaerville when an SUV crashed into it, setting it on fire, said he had made several requests for guide rails because he had long been concerned about cars coming off the road. The New York State Department of Transportation said that it has no record of any requests.

  • A Spectrum employee was killed in Berne in what the company’s regional vice president of communications called a “tragic accident” while the employee was working on a line early in the morning. 

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