Test results of water stir debate

Enterprise file photo — H. Rose Schneider

Knox town councilman Dan Hanley, left, and town supervisor Vasilios Lefkaditis, right, observe tapwater at the town highway garage that feels oily to the touch and leaves behind a hard film. It is attributed to the hardness of the water. Lefkaditis has said he wants to fix or rebuild the entire highway garage rather than address a single problem like the water quality.

KNOX — The results of lab report on the water quality at the Knox highway garage created a divide over what should be done next at the town garage, which has been suffering from a number of structural problems.

The report, collected by planning board chairman Robert Price, was completed by St. Peter’s Hospital Environmental Laboratory on May 1 and concludes that — while the water is still potable — levels of hardness, chloride, manganese, and sulfate exceed recommended limits, including a warning that the water could even have laxative effects. It was also noted that the high alkalinity and low pH could corrode pipes.

The water at the garage is known for feeling oily and leaving a hard film behind after drying, which is attributed to the hardness of the water being over almost six times the recommended level, said Price.

Price presented the findings at the May 9 town board meeting with an urgency to fix the problems with the water as soon as possible.

“It is beyond my comprehension that the town isn’t doing anything to fix this problem,” he said, referring to the town’s supervisor, Vasilios Lefkaditis. “It didn’t start on Vas’s watch — it goes back a long way.”

He estimated the cost would be between $8,000 and $10,000 and suggested having the town’s newly appointed engineer find out how to fix it.

“They shouldn’t have to work on those conditions,” said Lefkaditis. “But what I’m afraid of, is putting a Band-Aid on a gash.”

He added that the money would essentially be thrown away if the garage has to be completely replaced.

Lefkaditis told The Enterprise on Tuesday that the highway workers have bottled water brought over by the water treatment company Culligan, even though the water was designated as potable by the report.

“If you can drink, it you can wash your hands with it,” he said. “You can have potable water that exceeds certain levels.”

He noted that wells with high levels of sulfur may seem unpleasant, for example, but are found in many homes in the Hilltowns.

According to the New York State Department of Health, whenever one of the listed maximum contaminant levels is exceeded, the supplier of water must notify New York State, determine the cause of the exceeded limits, mitigate the problem, and send a report to the state within a month.

Jill Montag, representative from DOH said that, as it was confirmed the well-water isn’t being used for drinking, the high levels of contaminants are not a concern. Montag said that DOH would only regulate public water sources and not systems like the garage’s well.

“I don’t even know ever really why it was tested,” she said, describing the high levels of manganese, chloride and sulfate as “aesthetic issues.”

A copy of the lab report completed by St. Peter’s was shown to DOH, said Montag, and the department determined there are no health concerns regarding washing hands with the water.

“I guess the folks at the health department don’t have to live with it,” said Price, in response to to the statement.

The town had a tour of its facilities for the second year in a row in February in order to go over what repairs and other tasks still needed to be done. At the highway garage, it was noted that the building’s circuitry was not property wired, there are leaks in the roof, and there is no insulation — leaving the garage to be around 50 degrees indoors in below freezing weather. The tour also noted the water supply and its strange qualities.

How to address much-needed repairs of the highway garage has long been debated. Price had requested town funding to test the water because he is on a committee seeking grant money from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority for fulfilling four energy-saving action items, and that money was being considered for the highway garage were it to be awarded to the town. A fourth action item proposed — setting up an electric-vehicle charging station — was not even seconded at a meeting where it was heavily debated, and the town has since been pursuing two different action items — either establishing light-emitting diode street lamps in the hamlet or specially training the town’s code enforcement officer.

Lefkaditis has also said he supports sharing highway facilities with the county, which both Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy and newly appointed Albany County Department of Public Works Commissioner Lisa Ramundo support. Across the state, Governor Andrew Cuomo has been encouraging municipalities and counties to merge services.

Lefkaditis told The Enterprise on Tuesday that the town is researching the different options and funding for a capital improvement project of the highway garage.

“It’s not something you do overnight,” he said.

According to Lefkaditis, there are three options to mitigate the many problems associated with the highway garage: sharing facilities with the county, demolishing the highway garage and building a new one in its place, or conducting a large-scale renovation of the building.

Funding, he said, could come from various state, federal, or county grants. This includes the grants for shared services as well as the NYSERDA grant should either go through.

Price said he estimated insulating the garage would cost $60,000, according to a quotation from a contractor he had consulted. The contractor had not given a quote on any other infrastructure in the garage, but Price said he estimates it would cost $2,000 to $4,000 to change the water and repair plumbing fixtures like the toilet and sink at the garage. Price said there is a vice-grip on the hot water faucet of the sink and that the bathroom is filthy.

“As far as I know, the people who work at the highway garage are Knox taxpayers,” said Price, in response to Lefkaditis’s concern that the money spent would be from taxing Knox residents.

Lefkaditis said a grant for shared services would depend on if the town creates and starts implementing a plan for shared services by September. He expects the town to have a plan of what to do within a couple months.

At the meeting, Lefkaditis asked about the highway garage’s septic, which Price said was not a problem.

 

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