Reservoir patrolman Gary Fish calls firing 'suspicious'

The town of Bethlehem fired Albany County Sheriff's deputy Gary Fish after he served 12 years as a part-time patrolman for the town's water supply.

Fish claims he was fired because he spoke out about the mercury spill at the town's water plant, but town officials said he was fired because of repeated scheduling conflicts. The town would not comment further because they said the incident is a personnel matter.

As a veteran law enforcement officer of 23 years, Fish said the town wasn't fully disclosing incidents involving mercury and other problems at Bethlehem's water treatment plant located in the town of New Scotland. He was hired by the town in 1996 to patrol the restricted reservoir.

Fish alleges that his termination has nothing to do with scheduling and is the result of his talking to Town Attorney James Potter after a meeting about what he called inaccuracies in the report given to the public by Public Works Commissioner Josh Cansler in February regarding mercury spills at the water plant.

Fish said more mercury was released inside of the water plant than what was reported and that workers were constantly put at risk by "having to track through mercury for two years."

Fish also said that mercury-tainted sludge was routinely "hosed down" past the plant's clear well and into a "sludge pit." The clear well contains treated water that is pumped directly into the town's water system.

Only a metal collar and a piece of plywood separated the mercury sludge being hosed away and the town's water supply, according to Fish.

There were two reported mercury spills at the town's water plant over the past two years, resulting from mercury that had escaped from outdated mercury flow meters still used at the plant, which each contain up to 5 pounds of mercury. The town said the spills were small and that mercury did not reach the drinking water. The state Department of Environmental of Conservation's investigation into the incident confirmed that mercury was not in the town's drinking water.

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