Reilly wrong on village water system

Municipal water supplies are highly regulated in New York state by its Department of Health which requires testing and constant monitoring. Our dedicated staff in the Village of Saranac Lake takes pride in supplying good quality water to its residents and samples our product every day. The result is water drawn from an underground aquifer by two large wells and delivered to our citizens meeting all requirements set forth by the state.

Mr. Dan Reilly authored two recent opinion pieces in this newspaper (“Lead and salt in our water,” Feb. 3, Feb. 8) criticizing our village water supply, a rant containing substantial factual errors ending with the promotion of the political candidacy of a person running for the mayor’s seat from which I am retiring at the end of next month. As his diatribe was not adequately fact-checked by the Enterprise, this op-ed column responds to his falsehoods.

First, the village replaces lead “goosenecks” (lead connections from a water lateral to a watermain) whenever it discovers a water supply line made of brass or black iron, the ages of which indicate the likelihood of this lead connector. Village staff also replaces these lines under the street, from the main to the shutoff or property line. Copper and plastic lines generally do not have a lead gooseneck or need replacement due their longevity. When any new watermain is replaced by the village, lead goosenecks, brass lines, and black iron lines are also replaced, contrary to Reilly’s assertion otherwise.

A property owner owns his or her waterline to the streetside shutoff valve or property line only and not to the watermain as stated by Reilly. If replacement or repair of a waterline is required under the street, then it is the village’s responsibility and not that of the private property owner as Reilly wrote. Sewer lines, however, are owned by the property owner all the way to the main as they depend upon gravity flow and are often plugged by the user/owner. This is customary practice in most communities. Water districts outside the village may have different rules. Further, the village has aggressively replaced all known water mains containing lead over the decades and the few remaining feet, recently discovered, will be soon replaced, again, contrary to Mr. Reilly’s claims.

Trace amounts of lead are most often found in homes built before 1986 when lead-based solder was used to connect copper piping. [i] Most Saranac Lake homes, therefore, have lead-based solder and trace amounts of lead. Lead or brass waterlines and brass fixtures can also leach lead. Annually, the village tests for lead in some of these homes and the results are well under any federal or state “action level.”

If a homeowner is concerned about lead within their home, they may contact the state for a free test kit via its Free Lead Testing Pilot Program. [ii] The village will also help, just as it has hundreds of times in the past, to identify the presence of lead in waterlines servicing a home.

We switched our water source from McKenzie Pond to our current water wells 10 years ago by state mandate. It took us a bit of time to adapt and determine its best treatment. There is sodium present in our water supply coming out of the ground. Our treatment adds a small amount more [iii], as we adjust treatment for alkalinity and acidity to deliver the best quality water that will not corrode piping which may leach lead and other chemicals into our water. Annually, we notify those with “severely restricted sodium diets” to not drink our water. However, the level of sodium in our water is significantly below [iv] the threshold for those on a moderately restricted sodium diet. Interestingly, we tested bottled water this year and found it also contained sodium. [v] Last year, our village hired Hydro Source to help us determine the ground source of sodium and develop treatment strategies to reduce sodium content. This shows our resolve to reduce sodium, contradicting to Mr. Reilly’s allegations.

I have worked with other municipal workers in my career, and I will tell you that Saranac Lake has an exceptional, resolute, and conscientious team dedicated to delivering the best quality water and infrastructure to our community. They are second to none and we can and should have confidence in them. Our next mayor and every village resident will be well-served by them.

— — —

Clyde Rabideau is the mayor of Saranac Lake. A list of sources accompanies this commentary online.


[i] https://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/water/drinking/lead/

[ii] https://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/water/drinking/lead/free_lead_testing_pilot_program.html

[iii] 32 mg/L untreated. 37 mg/L after treatment

[iv] 37 mg/L vs 270 mg/L

[v] 7 mg/L in our sample


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