Hook-up for MTBE-affected wells delayed

Persistent problem must wait longer for a solution: Legislators promise a vote in August

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  • Residents living with MTBE-contaminated wells on Police Drive in 2012 (from left): Clifford Bartley, Darlene Bartley, Heather Cockburn, Christopher Cockburn, and Stephanie Cockburn (Photo by Geri Corey)

“This is an important first step in doing the right thing. I am hopeful that the families involved take advantage of this offer by the county. At the same time, the project will bring a public water supply to developable areas, which can encourage economic development."
Legislator Katie Bonelli

By Geri Corey

— Long-suffering households with MTBE-polluted wells will be hooked up to a clean water line if county legislators agree to take out a $350,000 bond for the work.

On June 23 — three years after the state assured Goshen Supervisor Doug Bloomfield that the spill is "currently being addressed by the county” — the new county executive issued a press release addressing the problem:

“The Orange County Legislature’s Physical Services Committee today voted unanimously to approve a $350,000 bond for the Department of Public Works to connect several homes in the Town of Goshen to a nearby waterline," stated the release from Steve Neuhaus.

The connection is subject to a vote by the full legislature, which Neuhaus predicted would happen at the July 2 scheduled meeting, and a written agreement entered into with the Village of Goshen and the affected residents on Police Drive.

“I met with these families in 2012 and 2013," said Neuhaus in his statement. "They are afraid to drink their water, and that is a nightmare for any family. I want to thank Goshen Mayor Kyle Roddey and his team for meeting with my office and their conceptual support for the project before we advanced this resolution. We will be sending Goshen a formal intermunicipal agreement and asking for their support.”

But the resolution wasn’t passed July 2. Access to clean water is still in limbo for the affected people. In fact, the resolution was returned to the Physical Services Committee for modifications.

“The purpose of the bond was to include a back-up water supply for the Orange County Jail and to allow families to hook-up," said county Legislator Shannon Wong of Goshen. But the bond before the Legislature did not include back up water for the jail as part of the process.

“We have to follow proper channels," Wong said. But she said there’s support from the Legislature to get this issue resolved.

Katie Bonelli, who chairs the Physical Services Committee, said the issue “is on the agenda for further discussion and clarification for those legislators seeking additional information.” If her committee approves the resolution, “it will go before the full legislation at our August meeting,” she said.

She explained that the proposed line would extend from the entrance of Police Drive, past the Orange County Department of Public Works building, and continue to the intersection of Maple Avenue and Police Drive, the site of an existing waterline, which runs to the jail property. The proximity of the new line will enable the county to provide an alternate water supply to the jail if needed.

“It also will solve this long-standing problem for these families along Police Drive,” Bonelli said. "This is an important first step in doing the right thing. I am hopeful that the families involved take advantage of this offer by the county. At the same time, the project will bring a public water supply to developable areas, which can encourage economic development—something the Town of Goshen, which is largely tax exempt, could use assistance with.”

A long history

The story goes back to 1990s, when town workers replacing fuel tanks at the town garage on Police Drive first discovered fuel in the soil.

On July 7, 2006, an agent from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation appeared at the doors of residents and businesses on Police Drive in the Town of Goshen to tell them that MTBE is polluting their wells — well water that they used for drinking, bathing and cooking. Methyl tertiany butyl ether is a gasoline additive used as an oxygenate to raise the octane number to help gasoline burn more completely.

Because it was showing up in groundwater from leaking underground tanks, and as a serious contaminate that has been linked to cancer and mutated genes, its use became controversial. In 2004 it was banned from use in the state of New York.

In 2007 several Police Drive families filed a lawsuit naming the town and county as defendants.

See related story, "County pollutes water, stalls": http://bit.ly/1pfxkfP

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