August 8, 2012

Salt-contamination study moving slowly


---- — LEDGERS CORNERS — While investigation has begun into the source of salt contaminating the water supply here, frustration has peaked for affected residents.

“We shouldn’t have to be doing this on our own,” said Cheryle Saltmarch, who has helped organize a community group to work together in search of answers. “We don’t understand why our legislators are not knocking down doors trying to find an answer.”

Saltmarsh and Jeff King share a residence on the corner of Route 374 and Plank Road in the Town of Dannemora hamlet of Ledgers Corners, directly across from a New York State Department of Transportation salt shed, which seems to be source of contamination that has existed for more than a decade.

They had their water tested for contaminants more than a year ago, and results came back positive for high levels of sodium and chloride, minerals that have damaged their dishwasher, other appliances and water and sewer lines and left them without a private source of water.

“We can’t filter the water; we can’t drill wells.” Saltmarsh said. “What other alternatives do we have?”


Several state and county agencies have been working on the issue, holding bi-weekly conference calls including representatives from the Department of Transportation, the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Clinton County Health Department and the Clinton County Office of Emergency Services.

“We have consultants in the field collecting water samples for analysis,” said Mike Flick, spokesperson for DOT in Watertown. “Field work is continuing, which includes property-owner interviews and mapping.

“Water deliveries also continue,” he added. “A (5,000 gallon) tanker remains on site for those who wish to use it and for their animals.”


The Clinton County Health Department requested the tanker in March, and the State Emergency Management Office potable-water-transport tanker was parked in an empty lot just west of the state storage facility.

Officials recently switched from the Emergency Management tanker to a Department of Transportation tanker to meet emergency conditions elsewhere.

“The OEM trailer is an emergency resource that State OEM would like to have back in its stockpile reserve for potential incidents with current statewide drought-like conditions,” said Eric Day, director of County Emergency Services. 

“Residents will notice the change in trailers, but they can be assured the water in the new tanker will be potable.”


The Department of Transportation is also providing residents with 5-gallon water jugs to use for drinking water.

“My one main objective is to keep local water available for the residents,” said John Kanoza, director of the Health Department’s Environmental Division. “Most people are using anywhere from 10 gallons a day up to 200 gallons for their animals, gardening and other needs.”

Still, residents are desperate for a permanent solution to a problem they’ve inherited but are not responsible for.

“I’d like to know what DOT has got in mind with winter coming,” King said, his voice filled with frustration from the thought that his community will have to struggle through another harsh Chazy Lake winter with little movement toward a long-term plan.


The residents wonder why they have not been asked to participate in the bi-weekly discussions.

“We can help them understand what our needs are, what our living conditions are like,” King said. “We’ve offered to help, but they don’t return phone calls.”

“They are unresponsive to anything we ask,” Saltmarsh added. “It is like the state wants us to take care of the problem and not do anything.

“We have elderly people (living in the community) who have to haul water, people with children,” she added. “How long is this going to last?”


Selling and moving out is not an option, King said.

“These pieces of property are worthless now. We do not have potable water. Who’s going to buy into that kind of problem.”

As complex as the situation has become, resident Gontran Archer voiced the simplest of answers.

“DOT needs to find the (long-term) solution.”

“We are not anywhere close enough to trying to put together any long-term solutions,” Flick said. “We are still in the data-collection mode, and it would be presumptuous to say anything about long-term solutions.”

There is no clear timeline for when the investigation will be concluded, he added.


David Winchell, spokesperson for the DEC at Ray Brook, said that DOT has updated his agency regularly and will continue to do so.

“A final report of the site investigation will be provided to DEC for review,” he said.

Residents praised the efforts of New York State Senator Betty Little for the help she has offered, but are hoping that other local, county and state officials will come to their aid to find answers to the growing number of questions they face each day.

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