PINE BUSH – Three new badly needed wells for Pine Bush Water District were to have been drilled by now, another step to toward ending the chronic shortages that prevent the district from even preforming periodic flushes to clear the system’s lines of sludge.
Instead, next week members of the Orange County Water Authority board hope to select a bid from interested drillers that fits the project’s budget. The water authority had to solicit new bids because the first batch came in above budget, said Eenika Cruz, the authority’s administrator.
This all comes as hot weather and increased water use approach, a situation that led water district superintendent Tom McKelvey recently to urge the Crawford town board to come up with contingency plans should a water emergency arise.
The county water authority is overseeing the Pine Bush project, which involves the new wells, a pump house, a filter bed and a water main to connect the new supply to the district’s system. The wells will be located on county-owned property in the Searsville section of Crawford once set aside for the Dwaarkill Reservoir that was never built.
Ten years ago, test wells for an unrelated project were drilled in the Dwaarkill Basin. Those tests indicated that production wells could supply as much as 430 gallons a minute, enough to cover the district’s needs until at least 2045, said project manager Rebecca Minas, senior engineer at Barton & Loguidice, the company the water authority hired to design the new well field. Minas updated town board members about the project in April. At the time, she said the wells would be drilled in May. But then the bids came in high.
The county has state grants totaling $400,000 for work at the well head, Cruz said. In order to lower the cost of the drilling, the county reworked the scope of the project. The county and town, for example, agreed to do more of the site preparation work. By clearing brush, putting down crushed stone on the access road to the site and restoring the site after the drilling rigs leave should keep the drillers’ costs down.
Keeping Costs Down
Commissioner David Church, of the county planning department, said this week that reworked specifications also give the drillers more flexibility on the vertical plumb-line for the well casing, which should lower costs.
If the water board signs off on a bid on June 12, work could get started no later than July, Cruz said. The wells will be sunk between 930 and 1,005 feet deep into bedrock, Cruz said. Once that work has been done, tests will measure the yield and water purity. And although no other wells are close to the project, the county will monitor wells in the general vicinity at the request of property owners, Church said.
The design work and permitting has already been paid for, Church said. Still to come is the cost of constructing the line from the well head, along Hill Avenue and on to the north side of Route 52 where it will marry the existing main near the McDonald’s restaurant.
Here again, the county is looking for ways to reduce the cost, which town Supervisor Charles Carnes has estimated at $4.5 million. For example, it might be possible to use plastic pipe instead of metal to get the cost down near $3 million, Church said.
In any case, it’s likely the county would pay for the work, Church said. One concept under consideration would then have the town operate the system, lease the land from the county and pay a fee per 1,000 gallons of water. Church said the water fee, which would be passed on to users, should not pose a burden. Users now pay $6 per 1,000 gallons.
Contingency Plan Request
Even if a new bid is accepted and everything else goes according to plan, water from the new wells will not be coming out of the tap until next year at the earliest.
The water district’s McKelvey has more immediate concerns. With Pine Bush now down to three wells, he believes it’s important that the town have a backup plan should a severe dry spell or well failure happen before the new water arrives.
In his monthly report, he noted that the recommended maximum yield was exceeded twice in April. He also pointed out that the average daily yield for the entire months of July, August and September exceeded the maximum safe yield.
In a phone interview, McKelvey said that official requests for water conservation by the public rarely have much impact on the situation. Bringing in tanker trucks of water is at best a short-term solution. Bigger contingencies such as skimming the Shawangunk Kill require planning and expensive equipment.
Supervisor Carnes grants that the town does not have a backup plan now. But he doesn’t think skimming the Kill is a viable option. He said the town is upgrading two of its wells, work that should increase yields.
But long term, everyone agrees new wells are the answer.