Solution found for high manganese levels at Altamont’s wellsite — it’s just not available, yet

Enterprise file photo — Melissa Hale-Spencer 

In February 2022, Altamont was notified that a sample from the wellsite contained 0.59 milligrams of manganese per liter; the maximum contaminant level allowed by the EPA is 0.3 milligrams per liter. The village now has a solution for the high levels, but it can’t use it just yet. 

ALTAMONT — After years of monitoring and shutdowns, the village of Altamont finally has a solution for the high levels of manganese in its Brandle Road well — but there’s a catch: The solution is not commercially available, nor does it have government approval. 

In October, engineer Richard Straut, who pulls double-duty as Voorheesville’s mayor, recommended that Altamont study the introduction of potassium ferrate into the drinking water at the Brandle Road site. 

In February 2022, the village was notified that a sample from the wellsite contained 0.59 milligrams of manganese per liter; the maximum contaminant level allowed by the EPA is 0.3 milligrams per liter. 

The village then resampled on March 8 and found levels were below the maximum level, at 0.28 milligrams per liter, which, with an average of 0.435,  was still about at the 0.3 benchmark.

The exposure rate set by the EPA, 0.3 milligrams per liter, is what the agency considers a safe level of lifetime exposure to manganese in drinking water. The “lifetime health advisory value of 0.3 mg/L will protect against concerns of potential neurological effects,” according to the EPA. 

The village shut down the Brandle Road wellsite, which, when operating, produces a third of its drinking water supply, and has largely kept it shut save for periods of peak usage, at which point the Brandle Road supply gets mixed into the village’s other water supply, from Gun Club Road.

The village board in October approved $20,000 for the pilot study, 

On May 7, Straut explained the pilot program had been run in conjunction with the University of Rhode Island, which has performed a lot of research on potassium ferrate.

For the pilot, which Altamont funded with $20,000 of American Rescue Plan Act money, researchers set up a small treatment system at Brandle Road and ran it for about a week, Straut said, and “we found out that it was very effective.”

But “where we are today,” Straut told trustees, “is that the chemical formulation that we’re looking at is still not commercialized.”

He said, “If it was, it was something that you could go buy right now, we could build this system. You buy the stuff  and it would work,” but the company that has come up with the specific formulation, Element 26, “is still working on that: commercialization,” he said.

Straut said that he and assistant superintendent of public works, Larry Adams, had an upcoming meeting at the state’s health department and “we’re going to talk with them about this and get their perspective,” which Straut said was “important because they have approval, authority over everything that happens here.”

Another issue is that the new formulation has yet to be certified by the National Sanitation Foundation, a certification which the state’s Department of Health is waiting on before officially approving its use, but that’s because Element 26 has only just begun the application process. 

In the meantime, Straut’s recommendation was for the village to “operate the way you have the last couple of years: Primarily on the Gun Club Road well, with the Brandle Road wells as a backup.”

He also suggested that the village use the time, “basically from now till next year,” to further develop the system’s design and look for grant funds next year.

Straut noted that recent testing had shown manganese levels lower than  0.3 milligrams per liter, so it’s “not [at] a constant high problematic level.”

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