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DEC fines Bethlehem for mercury spills

Cunningham emphasized that absolutely no contaminates reached the town's water supply -- not mercury or petroleum.

DEC officials agreed and said no mercury was found in the water supply but said they fined the town for not properly reporting the mercury spills. The town also did not properly dispose of an old fuel-oil tank near the plant on town-owned property, according to DEC Region 4 Director Gene Kelly.

"DEC Region 4 law enforcement staff worked diligently in following leads, interviewing witnesses and compiling the facts of this case," Kelly said in a release. "The town recognized the continued risk posed by the mercury gauges and switches at the plant and agreed to replace all of them at a cost of $258,000 over the next year."

Cunningham said the state's estimated replacement cost was a "high-end estimate," and that the replacements will likely cost less. The new flow meter will, however, be able to be used in the town's eventual new water plant.

The town's Clapper Road plant in Selkirk already has updated meters, he said.

The DEC said the replacement estimates came from the town's commissioner of public works, and Georgeson said they have documentation from the town's attorney.

The money for the fine and the new meters will come out of the water district budget, according to Cunningham, who reiterated that he could find no other municipalities being asked to replace their mercury flow meters.

"The DEC has gone into the pockets of Bethlehem taxpayers to finance their state budget," Cunningham said. "If it were that important, wouldn't the DEC be looking at all of these [mercury flow meters]?"

Georgeson said the DEC recovered 20 pounds of mercury "on site" while conducting its investigation and that the mercury, which is a hazardous waste, was disposed of in a solid waste receptacle instead of being properly disposed of.

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