Readers might only dimly remember when no one in New Paltz could get municipal water from the tap, due to a leaking oil line polluting a critical local reservoir. Mayor Tim Rogers remembers quite clearly, because he’s still working on a permanent solution, and because the recent pandemic has only been one of the factors making that solution more elusive and more expensive.
The reservoir polluted in that incident was where water was being piped from the Delaware aqueduct when the Catskill is shut down for improvements. That local aqueduct must be scoured of accumulated materials that have reduced its flow capacity like that of a clogged artery, in anticipation of performing a major bypass on the Delaware itself, which is currently leaking an estimated 15 to 35 million gallons a day. It can’t be pumped directly into the village treatment plant because the incredibly high pressure would destroy the delicate machinery therein.
Shortly after the advisory not to drink the water was lifted in February, city officials advised that another, unscheduled shutdown was needed immediately to effect an “emergency repair” and that it would last four weeks. With reservoir #4 offline, village staff and engineers cobbled together a 70,000-gallon tank system for receiving the water. It was an expense not budgeted, and a request to provide emergency funding from the New York City Department of Environmental Protection has been declined. Since this extra system would not have been necessary had the fuel line not been broken during a construction project, Rogers said that village officials are seeking to tack that expense onto damages for that debacle.
The shutdown of nearly all economic activity dropped water revenues by a third, Rogers said in a statement, as well as eliminating most money from parking meters and building permits. It’s also unclear how many property owners will have difficulty paying their taxes, which are due in June. All told, it’s the worst possible timing for an unexpected shutdown of anything else.