Friday, September 9, 2011

What turbid water means

I'm trying to wrap my mind around the boil water order and other issues with water in New Paltz, and I'm sure I'm not the only confused person in the community.  I contacted the Ulster County Health Department and spoke with Shelly to get some answers.

Both of our water systems - the water coming out of the tap and the stuff going down the toilet - can have problems during what we used to call "hundred year floods."  They are different problems, caused by the same thing - too much water.

The boil order is because of the massive amount of water feeding into the reservoir system that the village taps into.  The water gets stirred up (that's your "turbidity"), and because of the volume there's no way for the water treatment plant to filter the stuff back out.  The stuff which is stirred up could be just about anything one might find in a body of water . . . silt, sand, fish poop, critters too small for the eye to see . . . hence the precautionary order to boil our water.

Flooding also makes it impossible for the sewer plant to clean up all the water before it goes into the Wallkill.  That's the source of the consent order you may have heard the village is under.  Our system backs up far too easily, coming out of manholes in its raw and smelly state and getting right into the Wallkill.  It's a more serious problem, but since no one is drinking Wallkill river water, most members of the public aren't clamoring for an immediate solution.

I was completely unclear about how the two are related, but that doesn't minimize how serious the problems are.  Frankly, the village board needs our help in finding ways to solve our infrastructure problems, with the sewer system being tops on the list.

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