Uranium issue far from over in Seneca Lake

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:14

    Sparta-Seneca Lake residents on private wells may end up footing the bill for the installation of township water piping. Several lake residents that derive their water from private water wells have recently expressed interest in being hooked up to the township's water system. Most of them have had their well water tested, and have discovered uranium levels to be above federal safe drinking water standards. Although a similar discovery of uranium contamination in the township wells in the area forced Sparta to reroute the water supply to its existing township water customers, by law, the municipality is in no way obligated to "hook up" existing Seneca Lake well users. According to township engineer Charles Ryan, it would take approximately $80,000 for the township to run a water main to supply the homes on Wilshire Drive alone. The township council is now currently deciding just who should pick up the tab for such an expense. Typically, a developer of a new subdivision pays for the installation of water mains. Homeowners of existing homes also pay a fee to hook up to the system. However, because of the health hazard presented by the high levels of uranium the council is facing a unique situation. "Although the town is being pretty proactive with the uranium issue, it's a bit aggravating that they want to fix the problem without paying for it," said Bob Donofrio of Wilshire Drive in a telephone interview last week. Donofrio's private well has uranium levels that exceed federal guidelines. He said that when his home was build in the 1980s the developer wanted to install township water, but was denied by the municipality because the township did not have enough water to supply the area at that time. "I now have to front a ridiculous burden for that," said Donofrio who might have to split the $80,000 cost of installation with neighbors in order to receive township water. In addition, residents would also have to pay for water piping from the street to their home if water mains were installed. "They should use the money that they are currently getting from Byram for fire hydrant use, and pay for this installation," said Donofrio. According to Ryan, Sparta's engineer, the township is investigating the costs associated with providing township water to affected residents, but that it is unsure of where the uranium line ends. "We're not spending money to test everyone's private wells," said Ryan. "But if anyone is concerned with their private well, they should have it tested and share that information with the township." Ryan said that information would be beneficial to the township as it proceeds to try to remedy the uranium issue. At the request of Mayor Scott Seelagy, Sparta Township Manager Henry Underhill has contacted the office of Senator Robert Littell to ask if Sparta can receive "emergency" money from the state to help pay for the extension of township water. As of last week, the municipality had not received a response to its request. Sparta officials are hoping that because their municipality was one of the first in the state to test for uranium, that they may be first in line to receive federal or state money to correct the situation. Some private well homes on the Byram side of Seneca Lake are also suspected of being affected by the contamination. To date, Sparta has not received a request to extend township water service to these areas.