New pipes planned

GUILDERLAND — To improve water quality and supply, the town is reviewing plans to loop dead-end water lines in a project that is estimated at a cost of $2 million to $4 million.

Because of the project, the water supply on part of Western Avenue and in Guilderland Center and Fort Hunter will need less chemical treatment, Supervisor Kenneth Runion said at last week’s town board meeting.

The project will also help the town to meet federal Environmental Protection Agency standards for healthy drinking water. The town has been meeting the standards, but they are becoming more stringent, he said.

While this is true, The Enterprise reported earlier that the EPA’s measurement system is flawed. Every quarter, levels of haloacetic acids in drinking water are calculated by a system of averaging.

Individual hot spots, often on dead-end water lines, can have much higher, unsafe levels.

In 2007, each sampling site will have to meet standards and averaging will be eliminated, said William West, Guilderland’s superintendent of water and wastewater management.

This will be good, he said, because the town will have a better way to notify individuals living in areas above standards. Also, he said, the town can examine these areas to try to determine why the levels are so high.
Of the current high levels, West said, "That’s why we’re doing what we have to do now."

Long-standing problem
In September of 2002, an Enterprise article — "Hot spots: Water woes beneath the surface" — uncovered the problem. Many areas of Guilderland had levels of disinfectant byproducts in the 100’s, mostly because they were at the end of unlooped water lines where chemicals became more concentrated. The EPA’s maximum contamination limit is 60 parts per billion.

Higher chlorine amounts are typically needed to reach the end of a distribution system; at the end of a pipeline, water and chlorine are in contact for long periods of time. Often dead-end lines produce higher readings.

Chlorine is added to the water to make it microbiologically safe. The disinfectant, however, can react with decaying vegetation or other organic matter and possibly create carcinogens. Two disinfectant byproducts are trihalomethanes (TTHMs), such as chloroform, and haloacetic acids.

In the 2004 water-quality report, which The Enterprise reviewed this week, parts of Guilderland are still shown to have much higher levels of TTHM’s than acceptable.

In August of 2004, Guilderland High School’s level was 93.6 parts per billion. Then, at Serafini Drive, the level was 115 parts per billion, and, in November, the level was 74.8 parts per billion.

Also, in August of 2004, Westville Apartments’ level of TTHM’s was 126 and, in November, it was 88. On Birch Court, it was 80 in August and 89.5 in November.

In February and May, the two other months when samples were drawn, the levels of TTHM’s met standards. This is because, in the winter months, acid levels are lower, dropping the TTHM’s levels.

The areas with levels above the maximum contamination limit didn’t show up in official reports because a system of averaging was used. The EPA is currently working on a new regulation that will eliminate averaging across the system, but it will not be in place for a few more years.

Earlier, Robin Woods, a spokeswoman with the EPA, listed liver and kidney cancer and central nervous system damage as possible risks of drinking water above state standards.
"People who drink water that contains byproducts in excess of EPA standards over many years, have a higher risk for these diseases," she told The Enterprise.

The town’s drinking water is from the Watervliet Reservoir and three town wells. Most of that water is treated at the town’s treatment plant before it is piped out.

In March of 2003, Guilderland’s average maximum contamination limit was 80 parts per billion; the standard is 60. The town was then required to send notices to residents using town water.
"Some people who drink water containing haloacetic acids in excess of the maximum contamination limit over many years may have an increased risk of getting cancer," the notice sent by the town stated in italic print, attributing the information to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Residents should not be alarmed, West told The Enterprise at the time. The town was required to send the notice, under orders by the EPA, he said. "It’s more of a consumer’s right to know thing," he said.
Referring to the statement in the notice, West emphasized the word "may."
"To me, that’s a pretty broad statement," he said. "...The language is not that specific because the science is not that specific."

West reiterated these comments Wednesday, and said that, if someone drinks two gallons of water per day for 70 years, they still have one in a million chance of getting cancer.
"I stand a better chance of hitting the mega lotto," he said.

The town also does lead and copper sampling, he said, and in most cases, the levels are normal. But, West said, old pipes can cause high levels of lead to contaminate the water. A house with old plumbing could show unhealthy levels, he said. The town would notify the residents of this house, recommending they let their taps flow for a few seconds before drinking the water, he said.

West added that last year’s work at the town’s water-treatment plant, including adding a new filtering system to the plant, is also helping to clean the town’s water.

Taking action

Last week, the town took its first steps towards correcting the town’s water-quality at dead-end lines. The town board voted unanimously to allow Delaware Engineering to conduct a feasibility study.

Tuesday, West told The Enterprise that he’s pleased the town is considering looping some dead-end lines.
"The looping will have a couple of positive effects," he said. "It’s a positive aspect for water quality in that, with positive hydraulics, we can move water better."

Water that is constantly flowing is less likely to have particulates settling in the pipes and contaminating the water.
"We have dead ends all over town, but those may be smaller," West said. "We try to loop wherever we can."

The new project will be for areas on Western Avenue and in Fort Hunter and Guilderland Center, where many dead-end water lines lie.

The project will not be small, West said. In some places, lines will have to go under the Bozenkill and Normanskill, and go through rock formations, he said.

The town tries to lay the lines in rights-of-way, so as not to disturb people’s properties. When looping lines, the town may have to get easements from residents, West said, but he expects the digging to be simple and to not adversely affect anyone.

Although many factors can cause price fluctuations, West estimated the whole project to cost between $2 million and $4 million.

The town has installed many water-district extensions, West said. Then, it usually loops existing lines, he said.

The town has been considering this project for 20 years, West said. Earlier, however, with most water lines in the eastern end of Guilderland, the town was not in a position to extend lines this far to the west, he said.

Now, he said, with more development in the western end of town, it is easier to extend and loop lines there.

Much debt on the town’s water system is now being retired, West said, making the project more affordable.

The project still must go through a public-hearing process and receive approval from the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation and other agencies.

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