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Saranac Lake seeks secondary water source

With one of two wells shut off due to high iron content, village looks for backup source

SARANAC LAKE — The village of Saranac Lake is looking into a new supplemental source for its tap water as one of its wells is having problems with high iron concentration in the water it produces.

One of the two wells the village dug near the wastewater treatment plant in 2012 has been out of service for several years due to it having high iron content.

“The water that was coming out of that well was not endangering anyone’s health, but, aesthetically speaking, it was not the best option,” Village Manager Bachana Tsiklauri said.

It’s a “nuisance,” Chief Water and Wastewater Operator Dave Lewis said.

The other well produces enough water, but the village is looking at options for a backup, including drawing water from McKenzie Pond again to supplement the sole operating well.

Iron is a big issue for well water in the Tri-Lakes. Tupper Lake has had a persistent and aggravating problem with iron discoloring the water ever since it dug its wells in 2018.

Saranac Lake changed its water source from surface water in 2012, a time when the state Department of Health was moving away from supporting surface water in favor of wells.

The other well is producing plenty of water for the village. They’ve never experienced shortages and Lewis said they’ve had no problems meeting demand. But the DOH requires them to have a backup source of water for emergencies.

Tsiklauri said they could turn on the iron-rich well and have water at any time, but it’d be discolored and brown.

Lewis said the village has three options — change its backup water source, dig a new well or filter the iron out from the iron-rich well.

“No matter what we do, it’s not going to be cheap,” Lewis said.

He said the village is currently in the “preliminary stages” of looking at options, as they investigate what is viable and what is affordable.

Tsiklauri said they’ve had engineers to try to fix the iron problem with treating in the past, but though it is cheaper, it wasn’t as effective as filtration.

Digging a new well would be largely a gamble, Lewis said. They could drill it and it might end up having high iron content, too. It’s hard to tell where iron deposits are underground, he said, as they are caused by various geological factors.

The two existing wells started off fine, but in the past four to five years, the iron content in one jumped up pretty high.

The village sourced its water from McKenzie Pond for years before the wells were dug in 2012. If it started drawing from that water body again, it would need to build a new filtration plant. The former plant on View Street near the village water reservoir is old and a lot of regulations have changed since it was last operational.

Lewis said there is still water traveling by gravity down from McKenzie Pond. Currently, it just flows into the Saranac River near the Lake Flower Dam.

Tsiklauri said the village is working on several grant opportunities for this work.

Saranac Lake was recently awarded $100,000 from the state to do a feasibility study on the Lake Flower Avenue streetscape as it prepares to replace the century-old water lines running beneath the road.

Engineers are estimating the cost of upgrading these water lines and finding a secondary source for water at approximately $22 million currently.

Lewis said the Lake Flower Avenue water lines “break all the time” and need to be replaced. This work is likely to not happen until next year at the earliest, he said.

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