Altamont’s water supply plummets to levels not seen over four decades

Enterprise file photo — Melissa Hale-Spencer

The village of Altamont is turning back on one of two wells at its Brandle Road well site. The wells were shut down in the spring after testing for higher-than-allowable levels of manganese. The one well being brought back online has tested below the EPA limit since early last month. 

ALTAMONT — While the issue that caused the village to shut down its Brandle Road wellsite has started to abate, second-order effects continue to impact Altamont’s water supply. 

A high manganese reading in February led the village to take a third of its supply offline, which has since led to water levels not seen since the Carter Administration. 

During the board’s July 19 meeting, Altamont Superintendent of Public Works Jeff Moller reminded trustees that the village still has restrictions in place. 

The village code states even-numbered homes and businesses are allowed unlimited outside water use on even-numbered calendar dates from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., and from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m, while odd-numbered homes and businesses are allowed unlimited outside water use on odd-numbered calendar dates during those same two-hour intervals.

“Irrigation by hand, that is the use of a garden hose held in one’s hands, remains unrestricted” from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., and from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week, according to village code.

Moller said he “really would appreciate it if everybody follows” the restrictions set forth in the code. 

Moller said current usage is somewhere between 280,000 and 300,000 gallons per day, which is up from 260,000 gallons per day in early June — the village’s latest drinking-water quality report, from 2021, puts average demand at about 189,000 gallons per day — and that the rain that fell on July 18 had effectively saved 80,000 gallons from being drained from the village system. 

“That’s five hours of run time off our usage,” Moller said of the 80,000 gallons. “So, you know, it does make a difference if [residents] follow the restrictions.”

The village has been drawing its water strictly from its Gun Club Road well site for nearly half-a-year now. “On that note,” Moller said, the village is “one foot away from being at the lowest point since the late ’70s. So we’re really getting down there.”

Due to the low well level on Gun Club Road, Moller said he’d been in contact with the county and state health departments about bringing one of the two wells on Brandle Road back online. 

The village tested the one well it intends to use at the beginning of June and it contained 0.2 milligrams of manganese per liter, Moller said; tested again two weeks ago, the level was .21 milligrams per liter. “So we’re still below that limit,” Moller said, “we got permission to turn that well on.”

The exposure rate set by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, 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. 

Moller said the village would be turning back on the Brandle Road well site on July 20.

“It’ll still be in conjunction with Gun Club,” he said “We’re going to slow down the pump rate [on] Brandle,” so if there’s manganese in the aquifer it won’t get drawn so quickly into the system. Moller said the system mix would likely be one-third Brandle Road and two thirds Gun Club Road. 

He said the village would test one week after bringing the Brandle Road well back online, July 27, and, if all is well, then testing would take place once a month going forward. 

Moller said, if the Brandle Road well site starts to test above EPA limits, “we may still be forced to send notices out and still use that water as we’re not going to have a choice, especially with the fairgrounds coming on.”

“And according to both the lab and the Health Department, if we’re going to have a problem, this is a problem to have as compared to all the other problems that we could have with different chemicals in our water,” he said. “We can handle this; we just have to send notices out and make sure the public is notified of it.”

Trustee Michelle Ganance observed to Moller, “There’s no ramifications for people that use water when they’re not supposed to. I mean, why do we put that out there?” she said of the village’s water restrictions. 

Moller said the village code laid out the penalties. 

Per the village code, first-time water-use-restriction offenders within the village receive a $25 fine and a $100 penalty for each subsequent violation, while customers outside the village receive a $25 fine for a first violation and, if it takes place during the same year, have their service terminated for a second offense. 

Ganance asked, “But who would monitor that?”

According to code, the superintendent of public works and the Altamont Police Department are to be “designated as the enforcement officers” of the village’s water-use restrictions.

The code also states the village board “reserves the right, in the event of an emergency, drought, or other situation deemed to affect the health and welfare of the residents of Altamont, to impose more severe restrictions relative to the use and consumption of water as it deems appropriate.”

Resident Kate Provencher asked with the well levels so low is there any reason to allow watering to continue. Mayor Kerry Dineen responded, “Well, maybe this is something we can talk about in the next few days.”

Dineen said the board was possibly scheduling a special meeting for later in the week — Tuesday, July 26, at 6 p.m., she said later — for “things that weren’t prepared for tonight,” and water restriction could be added to the agenda.


Orsini Park

Moller said work on the sidewalks at Orsini Park was due to start July 20, with the work being done in phases “so that we can keep the park operational.”

He said, “We sectioned off the back part … behind the gazebo,” and that the current black-top sidewalk would be replaced with a wider concrete path. Moller said the plan was to replace the sidewalk last year, but “there was so much going on.”

Moller estimated in March 2021 the project would cost about $13,000. 

More Guilderland News

The Altamont Enterprise is focused on hyper-local, high-quality journalism. We produce free election guides, curate readers' opinion pieces, and engage with important local issues. Subscriptions open full access to our work and make it possible.