For Seneca Lake residents, water to become a high-price commodity

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:15

    Sparta-Seneca Lake residents will soon decide whether or not they would like to pay over $13,000 for clean drinking water. A proposed $240,000 construction project to install a water main in the vicinity of Wilshire Drive and Seneca Lake Road in Seneca Lake was introduced by the Sparta Water Utility at a special meeting last week. If the water system is built, the costs will be split between the 18 homeowners the water main will serve. The $13,333 figure will be paid by those households to the Sparta Water Utility over a 10-year span. Currently, residents of these homes are getting their water supply from private wells. However, many of the private wells have tested positive for the presence of uranium. A natural underground rock formation in the Seneca Lake area is believed to be the source of the high levels of both uranium and radon. After the levels of uranium were discovered by private well owners, several residents asked the township if their homes could be hooked up to the township water supply. The special meeting, which was held Thursday, July 29, was designed to inform the residents of the different options. Municipal Engineer Charles Ryan and Township Manager Henry Underhill explained that the water well project will be dictated completely by the homeowners. "We're not here to shove this down anybody's throat," said Underhill. "We are simply offering the service if you are interested." Ryan explained a host of possible scenarios as the issue continues to be addressed. "We might have a situation where everyone up to a certain point on a road wants township water, and everyone above that does not," said Ryan. "If that were to happen, we could end the water main at that spot." He added that the costs of construction would then be adjusted and divided among the residents served. A resident at the meeting said that after her well tested positive for high concentrations of uranium, she had her water treated at a cost of $3,000 and that the contamination is now down to safe levels. However, she said, she would be willing to pay for the right to hook up to the proposed water project. "I don't want a swimming pool filled with uranium," she said. Also at the meeting, Ryan explained the costs associated with capping a well, but did not recommend it. He said that after residents are hooked up to township water, they can still use their well water for such things as watering their lawns. Although only seven of the 18 homeowners in the proposed construction zone attended the meeting, Sparta officials will continue to try to find out what the homeowners wish to do. Each resident in attendance filled out a form to let the township know whether or not they are on board with the project. According to Underhill, the only way that someone would end up having to pay for the unwanted water project would be if their home was surrounded by neighbors who want it. "If everybody but one person wants it, then we'll most likely move forward with the project," said Underhill. The town council will have the final say in the matter. In addition to determining where and when construction will begin, the council will also address the financial aspect of the plan. At a meeting last month, the council briefly discussed the possibility of the township helping to fund a portion of the water main project. At this point, Sparta has been unable to receive any state grant money to help ease the costs associated with the project.