Phoenicia explores opening water source

By Jay Braman Jr.
Due to a booming business cycle during a summer that has brought throngs of thirsty visitors, the Phoenicia Water District has started a project to reclaim precious spring water for the hamlet to make sure there’s enough to go around.
Water Commissioner Rick Ricciardella said Monday that work will soon begin on carving a road up the mountain across the street from the district’s filtration plant to grant access to a half-dozen natural springs that have supplied the hamlet for the past 100 years.
The trouble is, a hundred year’s worth of thunderstorms, spring thaws and summer droughts have caused erosion that has gradually restricted the flow from those springs to reservoirs built to hold the supply.
“We’re only getting about 20 or 30 percent of what we should be getting,” Ricciardella said Monday.
For years this was not a big problem because Phoenicia had a backup supply coming from a well on High Street next the Esopus Creek, but that supply was infiltrated by muddy creek water thanks to the strong currents that came with Hurricane Irene flooding. Now that water must be boiled before it is used.
The thinking is that, by doing a large cleanout and re-piping of the spring system (some of the pipes are so old they are made out of wood) Phoenicia will once again have a plentiful supply of good, clean water, no matter how many people are in town.
Once that upgrade is complete, Ricciardella and his assistants will use the new roadway up the mountain to easily check on spring flows and maintain the system for maximum and consistent output.
“That has been a big problem,” he said, “Now you need to hike in with a backpack and tools. Some places are just inaccessible, other places it’s dangerous to walk because of snakes. But with the road in we can drive right up there.”
He expects the project to be completed over the next few weeks.