Water payment flap muddies relations between Halfmoon, Waterford
HALFMOON & WATERFORD The town of Waterford’s water commissioners are suing the town of Halfmoon for nearly $7.7 million, alleging Halfmoon has reneged on a long-term water purchase deal.
In a lawsuit filed Nov. 2 in the Saratoga County Clerk’s Office in Ballston Spa, the Waterford commissioners allege that Halfmoon in 2009 stopped buying water because of concerns about potential PCB contamination, breaking what was supposed to be a 40-year contract.
The lawsuit, which will be heard in state Supreme Court, seeks compensation for lost revenue.
In response, Halfmoon Supervisor Mindy Wormuth said her town stopped paying when Waterford shut down its water treatment plant; she cited fears there about PCB contamination in the Hudson River.
The damages claimed by the Waterford water commissioners include lost sales and payments intended to help cover the debt service on water improvements that Waterford has made.
The lawsuit alleges that the intermunicipal water contract, first signed in 1981 and intended to run through 2021, was broken with a letter sent May 14, 2009.
In the letter, Halfmoon officials cited the risk that Waterford’s water — which has historically been drawn from the Hudson River — would be contaminated with PCBs during the dredging project then being started by General Electric and the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
However, Waterford officials said they had informed Halfmoon that during the dredging process, Waterford would be getting its water from a distribution system connected to the city of Troy’s Tomhannock Reservoir in Rensselaer County. A new connection to Troy’s system was built at General Electric’s expense, because of Waterford officials’ own concern about possible PCB contamination of the Hudson.
Wormuth said the new Tomhannock line is owned by the EPA, and Halfmoon can and does buy water directly from Troy, getting delivery through that line.
Halfmoon built its own water treatment plant on the Hudson in 2002, but like Waterford it has shut it down because of PCB levels that have sometimes spiked during the dredging.
Wormuth said Waterford officials told Halfmoon in 2009 that they were shutting down their river plant, and wouldn’t reopen it, even after the dredging project ends.
“We told them, if you guys can’t produce water, we won’t pay for it,” Wormuth said.
Since 2009, Waterford has continued to bill Halfmoon for the 27 million gallons a quarter that was the contractual minimum purchase. The water commissioners contend those bills must be paid.
The Halfmoon water system serves about 15,000 people, and has a maximum use of about 6.75 million gallons per day.