New Arkville well serving as backup

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By Joe Moskowitz
Residents of the Hamlet of Arkville are the proud owners of a new state-of-the-art, million-dollar backup water well. Arkville Water Commissioner Terry Johnson says the new well and pump house were always meant to be a backup for the primary system, but no other town officials who spoke with the News, seemed to have any idea when the $975,000 jewel of the total system upgrade had become the secondary well.

Later this week, the old primary well on Pavilion Road is going back on line after workers built a new-elevated pump house that was damaged in the flood of 2011. The original well and pump house now speaks electronically with the new pump house, located near Franks Street behind the DURR station.

Modern setup
The Franks Street pump house appears to be a technological marvel. It has geothermal heating and cooling. It treats and filters the water, and does it electronically. Johnson can actually monitor and operate it from his home. But the new filtering system may be overwhelmed by trying to remove miniscule amounts of arsenic that were found at that the new well. The filtration system is supposed to remove the arsenic by adding an iron compound. The arsenic binds to the iron and then both are filtered out of the water. Other impurities are also filtered out, but the system hasn’t lived up to its billing.

The new well went on line last March. Brendan Becker of Lamont Engineering said that at first, the water smelled bad because chlorine samples were being taken from the wrong location causing too much chlorine to be added to the water. Now, there is a Ph issue to deal with, but there is plenty of time to fix that problem. The old well, which produces nearly three times as much water as the new well, and with minimal treatment required, will become the primary well, and the new well will become the back up well leaving time to work on the Ph issue.

Saves money
Johnson says it was always planned that way because it is much cheaper to use the old well. Middletown Supervisor Marge Miller says it’s news to her, and that she inherited the situation so she wouldn’t know if what Johnson says is indeed part of its history.

Project Manager Beth Bush says the primary well is supposed to be the new one with the old one becoming the backup. When told, Johnson again said it’s the other way around. Bush said that if Terry says it’s that way, that’s the way it is. Becker, the engineer, came up with a different response. “We will alternate wells. When one tank is empty, we will switch to the other”

The total project, including new mains, meters, one upgraded well, and one new back up well, cost $2.3 million. A series of mostly Federal grants are paying for all but $377,000 of the total cost, the remainder of which was funded with long-term bonds.

Fluctuating costs
The original project, begun in 2008, was first budgeted at $1,800,000 and increased to $2,339,000 when arsenic was discovered in the new well and the Pavilion Road pump house suffered flood damage. Much of the increased costs were covered by increases in the amount of grant money and decreases in the amount of money that was bonded. Early in the project’s planning process, it was projected that the Arkville Water District would have to borrow $729,375 to complete its portion of the financing. After arsenic was discovered, borrowing was them projected to be $875,000. With additional grant funds, the water district ultimately bonded $377,000. The system serves approximately 300 users.

The entire process started when the State of New York ordered the Arkville Water District to dig a back-up well. A Middletown official told the News yesterday that the Franks Street location was chosen because La Mont Engineering said it was the only place in the hamlet where one could be dug.