Saratoga County water plans come under fire

Could the debate over the Saratoga County water system dry up plans for the long and highly debated municipal system?

Opponents of the county system, some of them future water users in the town of Ballston, have been questioning their town board since its summer vote to sign on as customers. Their concerns are cost, quality of water and leaving its current provider, Viola.

Another vocal leader in the battle to keep the pipes from being built to carry water from the Hudson River is Alec Mackay, president of Saratoga Water Services in Malta. Mackay's attorneys, Caffry and Flower of Bay Street, Glens Falls, released findings last week that charge that state environmental conservation laws distinctly prohibit changing the landscape of the Moreau State Park site because of its classification as wetlands.

Granting the county an easement to construct a water line and pumping station, among other things in the park, would be a violation of these laws, wrote attorney John Caffry in his statement to the office of parks, recreation and historic preservation.

Caffry said his experience in environmental law led him to discover the 100-year-old legislation.

"We've raised other objections about putting this in the park, so this finding doesn't surprise me," said Caffry. "I think the water authority didn't bother to check this out. The county is pushing through a project it doesn't need, and there's no demand for."

But Ballston Supervisor Ray Callanan, who chaired the county water authority while plans were being drafted for the system, said the easement issue has already been taken care of, and that Mackay's intentions are financial.

"This is a non-issue," said Callanan. "We worked with the parks and recreation commission to put in parking lots in Moreau State Park so this has already been dealt with. We've done this type of building before on wetlands. Mackay isn't exactly a disinterested party in all this."

Milton supervisor candidate and Democrat Patti Southworth said she's concerned the board made a decision to buy into the water system without thoroughly investigating the environmental concerns.

"This is another example of failed leadership in Ballston. My opponent (Harold Townley) and the town board have the responsibility to do their homework. When you act in haste the public pays the price," said Southworth. "If this goes to litigation and contractors could sue, it will be the taxpayers who foot the bill.""

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