Protecting Woodstock’s water

Should Woodstock extend its sewer system to Bearsville to protect its water system from septic leakage? Or create aquifer and tributary protection districts? Those are two of four options listed by the  Woodstock Aquifer Protection Working Group at the town board’s November 12 meeting, by the Group’s chairman Ken Panza, a former council member himself.  

The other two options considered, according to Panza, are to enact the original 2007 Aquifer Protection Overlay District law, that was never filed with the state and thus never became statute, or to establish a wellhead protection area.

Councilman Richard Heppner and supervisor Bill McKenna stressed the message that there is nothing wrong with the town water supply and it is not in imminent danger. 

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It is more of a way to protect the future, and as McKenna said, to educate people about being responsible and not using harmful chemical weed killers and fertilizers in the area that can make their way into the water supply.

“We’re being very proactive here,” McKenna said.

The town board revisited the protection district in 2014 but the Planning Board and Environmental Commission thought the existing Wetlands and Watercourse Law provided enough protection.

Based on recommendations in the updated Comprehensive Plan, the Aquifer Protection Working Group was re-formed and has presented its four options for protecting the water supply. 

“Whatever lands on the surface has the opportunity to end up in our aquifer,” said Panza of the underground water supply in the Bearsville flats area.

Panza noted the many septic tanks that surround the wellheads that are now approaching 70 years old. While there is no evidence those tanks are failing and contaminating the water supply, Panza said something should be done to investigate their integrity.

Though the working group didn’t get into great detail about septic tanks, the planning board identified them as the “single most important source of contamination of the town’s water supply.”

For this reason, the planning board had recommended extending the town sewer system.

Working group member Jerry Washington expressed some concern about possible septic tank failure, especially if some of the older ones are metal instead of concrete.

But real estate agent Laurie Ylvisaker said many tanks were likely replaced as homes in the area were sold in recent years. New homeowners consider it a health and safety issue, she said.

A dye test is done to see if the tank is leaking and the top of the tank is unearthed to determine its condition and if it is metal. Many times, those are replaced with concrete tanks, she said.

While an aquifer protection district was previously recommended, the purpose of including a Tributary Protection Overlay District was to protect the area beyond a 30 to 100-foot buffer around the Sawkill Creek and tributaries, the report notes.

A wellhead protection area would include the town’s seven existing wells while the original 2007 law included a Water Supply Protection Overlay District that incorporated an area for future wells, including the Comeau preserve.

Panza’s report was intended to help with town board discussions about how to go forward with protecting the water supply.

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