October 18, 2004

Water issues of all kinds

Although it's not yet clear what the cause of or the solution to water problems along Ellis Hollow Road might be, those problems were a major topic of discussion at last Thursday's Town Board meeting.

Charles Demotte discussed in Citizens' Privilege how increased activity since the quarry near his house changed hands four years ago seemed to correspond to changes in their water quality. They've installed a water filter, and have to change the filter every two months, more often when the water level is low. Demotte said that:

"We believe this is directly related to the extent of operations at the quarry.... because they do a lot of washing of stone, grinding and so forth, a lot of that silt is leaking into the groundwater. We're obviously very concerned."

Councilman Chris Michaels asked what color the silt was - Demotte said it was a gray clay silt. Michaels had seen a whitish lubricant at the quarry, where he is a frequent customer, but was glad that that didn't seem to be getting in the water. Demotte had seen that in drainage ditches, but not in his well filter.

Demotte addresses Town Board
Charles Demotte describes water problems before the Town Board.

Later in the meeting, the Board returned to Ellis Hollow residents' water difficulties. Harold and Janet Purdy described the problems they had had with something like "volcanic dust" in the last year and a half, after thirty-five years living there without problems.

Environmental Planner Deb Gross has been doing research, based on information Martha Robertson collected from responses to an ad she placed in the Ellis Hollow Gazette last spring, and has also been talking with the US Geological Survey. Gross would like to create a standard form for collecting information about water complaints and to talk with residents more actively. It didn't seem likely to the USGS that silt would be coming from the quarry itself, but but they couldn't rule out some connection. There was discussion about the washing ponds and the quarry's generally larger use of water over the last few years.

The initial answer seems to be to talk with the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, which oversees the quarry's operating permit. In response to a question, County Legislator Martha Robertson noted that Ellis Hollow Road is scheduled for major work by the county in 2006.

Earlier in the meeting, the town approved a SEQR negative declaration for water tanks being built on Hungerford Hill Road off Ellis Hollow in the Town of Ithaca, and called a public hearing on the matter. There was also mention of changes in Bolton Point water rates to come.

The board also discussed questions of flow-testing with engineer Dave Putnam. Bolton Point hasn't done formal flow-testing (they only have records for three hydrants), but they do flush all the dead-ends once a year, "an unrecorded flow test." Putnam mentioned a flow model the town had built years ago that might help predict what flow would come through which hydrants. The model was apparently built before the Turkey Hill district was added. Stelick was concerned that the town didn't have more data, and didn't seem reassured by Putnam's report that there is no standard for how frequently to test, though Putnam's discussion of the advantages of concrete pipes and annual flushing was promising.

There was also a hitch in the eight-person special elections for the Royal Road water and sewer districts. According to Town Attorney Mahlon Perkins, the election commissioners, both Democratic and Republican, at the Tompkins County Board of Elections, have:

"I think contrary to specific provisions in Town law, have taken the position that they don't want us to appoint their inspectors, which we pay by the way, to be the inspectors here at the Town Hall thinking there will be too much confusion when eight additional people come here to vote. I've taken a hard line with them about it; I have a call in to the Deputy Commissioner of the State Board of Elections. I think they're being very unreasonable.... So I will keep you apprised."

Perkins didn't expect this problem to disrupt the election overall, and the Board passed a resolution appointing the BOE inspectors to be inspectors for the Royal Road election.

There was a brief discussion near the end of the meeting about the possibility of buying additional sewer capacity at the Cayuga Heights plant in case of Dryden's use growing. Apparently the town is using 7000 gallons right now and has 40,000 gallons of spare capacity, so there wasn't much interest.

Posted by simon at October 18, 2004 7:59 PM in , ,
Note on photos