MAHOPAC, N.Y.— Sixty-three homeowners in a housing development off Hill Street known as London Bridge have been living without potable water since Aug. 16 due to a bacterial infestation in a storage tank, but water company officials are optimistic the problem will be remedied this week.
David Tartaglia, a London Bridge resident, said the neighborhood first learned about the problem when employees of Suez Water, the company that owns the water district, came and stuck printed handouts on doors informing residents of the boil water order.
“It has been a royal hassle,” Tartaglia said. “You can bathe with it, but you can’t drink it and you can’t wash dishes with it. I have been busy trying to figure out how to wash my dishes. We fill the tea kettle once in the morning [and boil water] to wash a few things, but basically, we have been using paper plates and plastic forks and spoons.”
Tartaglia said his home has a reserve osmosis system but it doesn’t guarantee it will filter out bacteria.
“We have been buying a lot of water at the store,” he said.
Bill Madden, director of external affairs for Suez, said traces of bacteria were found in one of the system’s raw water storage tanks. One London Bridge resident told Mahopac News that the bacteria in question was E. coli, but Madden would not confirm that.
“Right now, we are just calling it ‘bacteria,’” he said.
To help remedy the problem, Suez took the contaminated storage tank offline and replaced it with a water truck tank.
“That will allow us to bypass that old tank and have a system that will provide the water for the 63 homes,” Madden said.
Suez must take two separate water samples 24 hours apart. If the tests come up clean, the boil water edict can be lifted. Madden said the results would come back from their lab sometime this week.
“The system is in place right now but we can’t lift the order until we have those two samples,” he said.
In the meantime, Suez, with help from Stormville, N.Y.-based Cemco Water and Wastewater Specialists, the company charged with maintaining the water system, has been handing out cases of bottled water to neighborhood residents. Last Friday (Sept. 1), the company made its third delivery. The district includes Nevins Road, Somerset Road, Brook Street, Stocum Avenue, Woodland Drive and Maurice Drive.
“We had a truck there on Brooks Street handing out four cases of bottled water per household,” Madden said. “And we will have another shipment.”
Madden said part of the problem has been communicating with Suez customers to let them know what is going on. Suez purchased the water district last year from Forest Park Water Company and Madden said the customer records were incomplete—half of the phone numbers were missing.
“We are in the transition period of becoming the owner of the old Forest Park District; that should be completed later this year,” he said. “But the phone records were bad and so the robo calls [with situational updates] were only getting to some of the people. We are trying to get all the information to everybody so they can stay up-to-date.”
Suez was able to do that after it went to the town hall and town engineer Rich Franzetti was able to track down the missing phone numbers. Now, all those impacted by the boil water notice can get the robo calls.
Madden said that with a fix now in place, Suez and the Putnam County Health Department must figure out how the bacterial contamination happened in the first place so they can prevent a reoccurrence.
“The water from the well was never in question,” he said. “We are optimistic that when the samples come back from the lab it will help us lift the boil water order. Customers should be assured we are using all available resources to resolve this as soon as possible.”
County Legislator Dini LoBue said the county has been working with Suez and was monitoring the situation very closely
“I know how frustrating and aggravating the situation is,” LoBue said. “Whenever there is a problem with water it impacts every aspect of your life.”