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Saratoga County Water Authority considers options for cleaning water

Officials prepared to spend as much as $10M to reduce acid content

Thursday, January 30, 2014
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— The Saratoga County Water Authority is planning to spend as much as $10 million to try to eliminate an ongoing problem with high levels of disinfection by-product chemicals in its water.

The authority has engineers testing three options for resolving the problem, which has caused two of the authority’s municipal customers — Ballston and Clifton Park — to stop buying its water.

At an authority meeting Thursday in Ballston Spa, acting Executive Director Ed Hernandez said engineers now believe a combination of pre-treatment to remove solids and post-treatment carbon filtration can be done within the $10 million price tag, and would be effective. Either could also be done separately, he said.

The improvements would be done at the authority’s water treatment plant in Moreau. The authority’s water is drawn from the nearby Hudson River.

The authority is also looking at whether a massive aeration system could remove the chemicals, called haloacetic acids, though tests to date show that would be expensive and ineffective. A decision on the options is expected in March, after further testing.

“We’re hoping to have all this in place by the end of 2014. It’s a very aggressive schedule,” Hernandez said.

The authority is trying to eliminate an ongoing problem with the acids, created by a chemical reaction between the residue of chlorine disinfectant and organic material in the water.

The levels exceeded the federal safety standard of 60 parts per billion in the summer and fall of 2011 and then again — to the authority’s surprise — last summer. The problem occurs in warm months because that’s when there is more organic material in the water; haloacetic acids are currently within acceptable levels.

Authority Chairman Jack Lawler, R-Waterford, said the authority tried less-drastic measures to reduce acid levels before deciding to spend the $10 million, but without success. “We’re going to get this thing resolved this year. It’s great news for our customers and great news for the authority,” he said.

Delaware Engineering of Albany on Thursday was awarded a contract for as much as $706,000 to review the options and oversee the design and implementation of the selected solution. The authority already contracts with Delaware for Hernandez’ services as acting executive director.

The $10 million would be raised by issuing 20-year bonds. Lawler said arrangements for the financing are already under way.

The authority began operations in 2010, bringing water to the central part of the county through a 27-mile pipeline. Customers include the GlobalFoundries computer chip plant and towns of Wilton, Ballston, Clifton Park and Moreau and village of Stillwater.

Ballston and Clifton Park stopped buying water last year because of the by-products, depriving the authority of sales of at least 650,000 gallons per day. Lawler said he expects both communities to meet their contractual purchase commitments in 2014, even as the authority works to resolve the problem.

Both towns have said they want to resume buying county water once the issues have been resolved, but neither town has commented on what they will do if the issues are not adequately addressed.

Both have alternate sources of water they can rely on until they resume using county water.

Separately, the authority plans to build a pipeline that will discharge filtration flushings back into the Hudson instead of recycling them through the plant. That project will cost $1.5 million and is being paid for by a loan and grant from the Saratoga County Industrial Development Agency.

“We want to get the outflow pipe in as soon as possible,” Lawler said. “It will have some benefit to water quality, but it will make for a more efficient plant.”

 
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