County Scrambles to Avert Water Crisis in Mahopac

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Roger Mills, left, and Adam Yarrish from Boyd Well Drillers repair the well at Chateau Ridge in Mahopac. Credits: Photo courtesy of Putnam County Health Dept.
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MAHOPAC N.Y. — County officials rushed to intervene to avoid a public health emergency last week when a well-water system in Mahopac malfunctioned, leaving residents in a private water district with little or no water for several days.

On Thursday, June 23, with the Chateau Ridge well-water system barely functioning and with no hope of immediate repair, County Executive MaryEllen Odell authorized an emergency delivery of 6,000 gallons of water to the water storage tanks there. Chateau Ridge’s water system is overseen by the Forest Park Water Co.

“We have been monitoring the overall situation,” said Dr. Michael Nesheiwat, interim Putnam County Health commissioner. “From a water safety perspective, the water quality has been fine. This week all 13 water districts serviced by Forest Park Water Co. had been put on water conservation restrictions until further notice in order to avert a potential major water outage. Up until now, only some districts and their residents have had to contend with water shortages, resulting from the various problems with the water systems.”

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One resident of the Chateau Ridge district wrote to Mahopac News in an email and said the neighborhood is in dire straits and needs help.

“We have been having little or no pressure over the last few days,” the resident wrote. “Forest Park…owns two pumps that generate water from a community well that services this whole area. We just contacted the company and were told we are in a lot of trouble. The pumps are broken and the well is running dry.  Forest Park has no money to fix these pumps and nobody will service them. As a result we are stuck with either little water or no water. We have all been paying water bills to Forest Park over the years with many surcharges for services we never received, [such as] a generator. We need water.”

Chateau Ridge serves about 300 residents,

Odell said the delivery of the 6,000 gallons is a short-term solution, but a long-term solution answer is needed. That could happen later this year. The sale of Forest Park to United Water Co. is slated to take place in September.

“We needed water out there immediately and we got it there in a matter of hours,” Odell said. “I have further called upon our law department, and with the assistance of Sen. Terrance Murphy, we have reached out to the New York State Public Service Commission to help expedite the sale of Forest Park Water Co. that has allowed this unacceptable situation.”

Odell said that last Thursday one of the two wells at the Chateau Ridge water supply stopped producing water. Forest Park could not arrange for repairs because its payment could not be guaranteed, causing an emergency situation. CEMCO Water and Wastewater Specialists, Inc. were then contracted by Forest Park management to operate and maintain the water systems.

“When the functioning well could not keep up with demand, Cody Barticciotto, [chief operator] from CEMCO, put in overtime,” Odell said.

According to residents, Barticciotto spent two nights at the Chateau Ridge pump house trying to maintain the system. Additionally Henry Boyd, of Henry Boyd Well Drillers, stepped in at the request of the health department, to provide an emergency repair without knowing when payment would be made.

As of early last Friday afternoon, workers from Boyd Well Drillers had replaced the well pump and removed one bad section of line of the broken well. Currently, that well is producing 60 gallons a minute. As of 3 p.m. last Friday, both wells are functioning and the system is back on line.

County Legislator Dini LoBue said she received an email last week from “a desperate constituent who was without water.” LoBue said she immediately contacted the County Health Department alerting it to the situation, asking that the department to take immediate emergency action.

“These people couldn’t wait another day or two and they certainly couldn’t wait for the state to act,” she said. “We couldn’t risk having one of the other 12 water supplies within the district go off line. I didn’t care how much it cost. We can deal with that later. We had to take action now.”

LoBue said she personally went out and inspected the well site and storage tank facility with  Barticciotto to assure that everything possible that could be done was being done on the ground.

“I was shocked to find out that this was happening here in Putnam County,” LoBue said. “What is this, Flint?”

In a letter to Forest Park residents, Danielle Alvarez, CHEMCO’s director of administration, wrote that “CEMCO is working diligently to provide uninterrupted water services to all Forest Park water systems residents. We have been working directly with the Putnam County Health Department and town officials to identify any problems and work through all of the issues that have developed within the Forest Park water systems. We appreciate your patience while these issues are addressed.

“We realize that you may equate CEMCO Water and Forest Park as the same entity but please understand; we are contracted water systems operators and are not at all affiliated with Forest Park. We have nothing to do with Forest Park management or billing. We are sympathetic to your needs and understand your frustration when service is interrupted. CEMCO’s mission is to provide our contracted water system consumers with safe, uninterrupted water services.”

CEMCO officials noted that water restrictions remain in effect for the district and asked that residents limit water to “necessary usage only in order to maintain system pressure and an adequate supply.”

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