Spotlight tours water facilities

At Clapper Road, increasing output by that amount takes about two hours. When the town replaces the New Salem plant (and the question is indeed when, not if) it will construct a facility much like the Clapper Road plant.

The maximum output from both plants is identical, at 6 million gallons per day, a level dictated by the state Department of Environmental Conservation based on the water source's renewal rate. This was not always the case, though.

The Clapper Road facility has a storied history. The original plan was to take water directly from the Hudson River, but that was abandoned after the system to draw the water failed to operate properly and the town sued the engineer for the project. A settlement agreement involved drilling 11 wells that now serve as the water source at the Clapper Road facility.

For those who don't want to see Clapper Road's output pumped into the town at large, the proximity of these wells to the Hudson is a sticking point. But according to the DPW, which conducts about 200 daily analyses on water drawn from all parts of the distribution system, the water in this aquifer is groundwater collected by the natural watershed and its chemistry is distinctly different from that of the river water.

"The water going into those wells is not the water that's coming in from the Hudson," DPW Commissioner Josh Cansler said.

He said it does not contain the much-publicized PCBs that the state has been moving to dredge from the river. What it is does contain is high levels of iron and manganese, which is not unusual for well water. Right now, those metals are removed with a dose of chlorine to the raw water administered before it comes to the plant. Soon, the water will instead enter an aeration tower, where air bubbles will oxidize the metals, removing them from the liquid water.

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