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Consultant: Watertown will be ready to seek funding for water treatment plant project

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A consultant on Monday night guaranteed that the city will be ready to apply for funding later this year to help come up with a solution to reduce two disinfection byproducts that exceed acceptable levels at the Huntington Street water treatment plant.

During a work session on Monday night, consultant Kevin Castro, with GHD, Syracuse, pronounced that the city will be able to apply for a federal grant and two state grants as the company continues to work on a pilot program to resolve the issues with the two byproducts.

Mr. Castro provided a preliminary report on how the pilot program is going so far. The next set of numbers won’t be available until April.

Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith said they will be needed so that the city can apply for a U.S. Department of Defense grant this summer.

“Because otherwise if we don’t, we are out another year and I don’t think we can kick the can down the road any further,” he said.

A third party other than GHD will have to prepare those numbers under the DOD grant requirements.

The project to resolve the issue will be expensive. Mayor Smith estimates it will exceed $15 million. The city and Mr. Castro refused Monday night to speculate further on its ultimate cost. Two Development Authority of the North Country officials urged the city to finally come up with a solution to the problem that first surfaced more than a decade ago.

The city is under a federal Environmental Protection Agency administrative order to fix the problems. DANC buys water from the city and provides it to Fort Drum and Pamelia.

DANC Executive Director Carl E. Farone and Carrie M. Tuttle, the authority’s chief operating officer, who were invited to attend the meeting, told city officials that they were worried that the city would not be ready to apply for the funds until 2024.

They brought with them an inch-thick report on the history of byproducts in the city’s water, dating back to 2006.

The city needs to meet Safe Drinking Water Act standards “not only for the city, but for Fort Drum and Pamelia,” Ms. Tuttle said.

The two byproducts are known as total trihalomethanes, or TTHM, and haloacetic acids, or HAA5. They are formed when chlorine or other disinfectants used to control microbial contaminants in drinking water react with naturally occurring organic and inorganic matter, such as tree leaves, algae or other plants in surface water, according to the EPA.

The city water is drawn from the Black River.

Periodically, water customers receive postcards from the city notifying them of the two disinfection byproducts that exceed acceptable levels.

According to the notices, the situation is not an emergency.

The city has been working on the pilot program for several months. The pilot program will see if the plan works. Now in its second phase, the study will be completed this summer.

The tests replicate the plant’s filter beds and water filtering through a sand layer and an alternative carbon material being tested.

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