Water issue to make waves

Proposal on table to deliver Clapper Road water to residential customers

Bethlehem's 2011 budget is shaping up to effect major changes across town operations, but one component that could make a seven-figure splash is still up in the air: the town's water system.

Included in the tentative draft of the town's budget, which has several weeks of scrutiny ahead of it, is a provision to wed output from the town's Clapper Road and New Salem water treatment plants into a unified water system.

It's a measure that came up about 15 years ago, when the Clapper Road plant was first constructed, and has been something of a hot potato issue since. Public concerns at the time over the quality of the water, which is drawn from well fields near the Hudson River, kept the plant's water flowing only to industrial users and a handful of residences.

But today is a different day, and for town finances, it's a difficult day. Due to approaching federal regulations, something must be done with the town's water system and of the three option on the table, unifying the system is the cheaper option.

"The economy is such that it draws attention to the fact that we have to look at all policy choices," Supervisor Sam Messina said. "I'm willing to go with the information I've seen to present this, hear from the public, have board discussion on this... To my way of thinking, this should have been done years ago."

He added all the data collected by the town over the years indicate the water from the Clapper Road plant is perfectly safe.

On Wednesday, Sept. 8, the town's Department of Public Works will make a detailed presentation to the Town Board on this plan and two alternatives: starting upgrades to the New Salem plant next year or altering a contract with the City of Albany to buy more of their water.

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