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State praises Salmon River water fix

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FORT COVINGTON - The New York State Department of Health has OK’d the lifting of the Salmon River School District’s bottled water order since significant improvements have been made to the water system and water testing has come back clean.

The school has been working closely with the Department of Environmental Conservation to remove traces of acetone, a by-product of ethanol breakdown, from the water since February 2013 and has finally succeeded.

The school will continue to test the raw water intake and treated water outflow on a weekly basis until further notice.

Changes to the system over the past year have been comprehensive, with added treatments, improved well construction, a reconfigured water flow and replaced well pump among many of the improvements the school has made.

Health Department water engineer Susan Kennedy said in a letter to Superintendent Jane Collins and the school board that they were pleased by the “great effort” put in by school officials to fix their water system.

That being said, the Health Department still considers the supply and treatment system “antiquated and unreliable,” citing over 10 boil water orders issued over the last few years as a major concern.

The Health Department has mandated that Salmon River find a replacement for its water system since the district’s geothermal heating and cooling system leaked in 2010, contaminating the well water.

There are two viable public water systems for the school to connect to: Fort Covington and the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe. Both have issued preliminary water engineering reports to the school, which SRCS’s engineers must now review and then submit to the Health Department for their comments and concerns.

Once the school has approval to move forward, school officials will meet with each entity separately to firm up costs and make their ultimate decision on a new water system. Tentative meetings are set for March 12.

Ms. Kennedy said the Health Department “absolutely supports the school’s efforts to connect to a neighboring water supply system and abandon the onsite water supply system.” She once described the school’s water system as “living on borrowed time” at a school board meeting.

At their February meeting Fort Covington officials discussed their own public water system and SRCS’s approaching decision to select a provider. Officials there said ultimately it is the choice of the school board.

The town would like to make major improvements to its own water system without costing the water district a large amount of money. Resident Francis Lester expressed his concern to the board about the quality of water at the school and in the town.

“Something should be done; something’s gotta be done,” he told them.

Despite winning praise from the state in their most recent water inspection, SRCS still had some minor violations in their report. The school needs to train another water operator for their system, even once they’ve connected to another system. The copper levels in the water were also slightly elevated, and Ms. Kennedy suggested the school evaluate the dosage of and possibly change the brand of their corrosion control additive.

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