PINE BUSH – Two more people complained Thursday night that the water in Pine Bush is practically unusable and listened impatiently as officials said a remedy is closer than expected.
"The water is good," Deputy Supervisor Dan Flanick told the crowd at the latest town board meeting devoted to water. It meets state standards, he said. The problem is there isn't enough of it to routinely flush the mains of sediment, which impairs service.
For customers, who say the water clogs appliances and makes coffee taste funny, help can't come soon enough.
"I'm paying $200 every three months for water I can't use," one fed-up resident told board members.
More water could arrive this fall if wells on private property turn out to be as productive and sustainable as early tests suggest, supervisor Charles Carnes said this week. The well on Howard Dubois farm off of Route 52 could be good for 170 gallons a minute. A second well also shows promise, with perhaps 60 gallons a minute.
Dubois has offered the water to the town. If the project is feasible, the water district could lease the wells for five years with an option to buy, Flanick said; five years would be enough time to assess the long term viability of the wells. Flanick couldn't estimate how much the district would pay for the water, saying it would depend on its flow and quality.
Carnes said the well owner would be responsible for getting the water out to Route 52; the district would then run a pipe outside the state's right of way along Route 52 and hook into an existing main at cost of about $1 million. Some of the cost would be borne by new customers hooking up to the line. He wants to get moving on the project as soon as possible.
Another project involving Orange County that would connect wells providing 400 gallons a minute to the hamlet is unlikely to get going until next summer, Carnes said. That connection would also run along Route 52 and cost $3 million to $4 million.
In the short term, the water system barely has enough to operate. Customers used an average of 219,693 gallons a day in July, according to Thomas McKelvey, superintendent of the water and sewer department. The safe yield of the department's three remaining wells, using Orange County Health Department guidelines, is 176,904 gallons a day. McKelvey himself estimates the conservative safe yield at 136,080 gallons a day.
Making matters worse the water department had to shut down one well in July that supplied about 75 gallons a minute because the amount of sulfur in the water rapidly increased. The sulfur discolored the water and had an unpleasant odor. The well wasn't productive enough to warrant the cost of installing equipment to get the sulfur out, Flanick said.
The water district, built in the 1930s, has about 600 residential and commercial hookups, serving about 2,000 people, but that number jumped to 5,000 when schools opened on September 6.