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Bethlehem mercury leak could be work of saboteur

The Town of Bethlehem is launching a criminal investigation into a mercury spill at its New Scotland water plant just as it finishes removing the last of its outdated water flow meter mercury switches.

Town officials said that last week a small amount of mercury was found at the bottom of a backwash wastewater manhole and has since been removed by hazardous waste removal company.

A release from Town Hall states, "At no time was the drinking water exposed to potential contamination nor was there a risk to public health or safety."

Department of Public Works Commissioner Josh Cansler said a saboteur may be involved.

"These flow meter switches were the last of any equipment used to operate the treatment plant that contained mercury," Cansler said in a prepared statement. "However, our investigation did find additional mercury in a suspicious location and manner, which has triggered an investigation into whether the small amounts found this week are somehow connected in an attempt to hamper our efforts to complete the remediation at the water plant."

The incident has spurred a criminal investigation into the matter and officials said the mercury leaks have "uncovered evidence of potential tampering."

Cansler said the mercury presence is a mystery because it's not known how it got there.

"The flow meters were all intact when they were removed," he said, indicating the mercury didn't come from them. "We've had no [mercury] leaks in over a year."

There are only about a dozen workers in plant that have access the area, none of which have access to the filtered drinking water going out to residents, he said.

"It's not that we think someone did it, but there's no source for it," Cansler said. "I want to be clear that it wasn't anywhere near the water supply."

Town attorney James Potter told The Spotlight he was made aware of the situation but that he was not personally handling the matter.

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