NORTH SALEM, N.Y.— North Salem Town Supervisor Warren Lucas held an informational session Jan. 10 for customers in the Sunset Ridge Water District as the town moves closer to installing a filtration system designed to remove uranium in the drinking water.
In addition to updating the status of the planned installation of a special water filtration system, Lucas discussed the overall status and well-being of the tanks in the water district.
About two dozen of the 96 water users in the district turned out for the meeting.
The Sunset Ridge Water District spans Daniel Road, Sunset Drive, Alice Road, Park Lane, Ridgeway Avenue and Westview Avenue in North Salem except for properties that have their own well systems. It also includes the Waterview Hills and Salem Hills nursing homes on Route 22 in Purdys.
In February 2016, the Westchester County Department of Health issued a violation, notifying Lucas that a review of the town’s quarterly radiological monitoring of water samples taken from the Sunset Ridge Water District revealed that the running average of combined uranium all of 2015 exceeded the maximum contamination level (MCL) of 30 micrograms per liter, with 31 micrograms per liter. It has since moved to within the normal range, but customers in the water district indicated to Lucas last year that they wanted to implement remedies to remove the uranium.
EPA guidelines state that some people who drink water with uranium over the MCL level for many years may have an increased risk of cancer and kidney toxicity. In this case, uranium is naturally occurring in the water district’s wells.
In 2016, the town contracted with an engineering firm to look into setting up a water filtration system that would fully remove all uranium, a move that many of those in the water district, enthusiastically approved of.
Lucas told those present that his application for a state grant to help pay for the installation of the new filtration system was not approved. He said that he has reapplied for it in 2017, in the hopes of saving money on the system.
While the town board serves as the board of commissioners for the water district, and can help by bonding for the money, the funding must be paid for by the district’s customers.
The total cost for repairs to existing tanks in the water district was estimated at $369,000 in 2015. Lucas says that number could be up to 10 percent higher. The installation of the uranium filtration system is priced at $340,000. Last May, the town board and water customers in the district heard a presentation
by engineer Robert Walsh and Rick Zahnow, the East Region sales manager of Water Remediation Technology, LLC, of Duluth, the manufacturer of a water filtration system that can remove 100 percent of uranium from contaminated water. Both the town board and customers agreed to install the company’s system.
At the Jan. 10 meeting Lucas broke down the costs for those present. He said $32,000 has been spent on engineering costs for the uranium filter system so far. He said if the town borrows the $709,000 at 4.1 percent interest over 25 years, that would amount to a yearly payment of $48,865. Filter replacement would cost about $10,000 a year. The company that installs the system also removes the uranium-filled filters and disposes of them at their location in Georgia.
The supervisor handed out paperwork estimating the amount each water customer would pay per year once the filtration installation and tank replacement is complete. Residents would pay between $150-$321 per year for the filtration and between $122 and $250 for the cost of replacing the tank. That number is higher for the two nursing homes in the district,costing around $5,500 per year.
As for a timeline for the filtration system, the engineering work has already been done. It has been submitted to the Westchester County Department of Health (DOH) which then sent it to the New York State DOH on Jan. 6.
Once final approval is received, the town will advertise for bids. After receiving bids it will award a contract, file a notice to proceed and obtain the necessary permits and the plumbing and installation done. In the best-case scenario, Lucas estimated the work could be completed as early as Sept. 17.