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Spotlight tours water facilities

That should be easier on the pipes that carry the raw water, since the oxidized metals won't collect there anymore.

The extra chlorine is removed from the water during the rest of the production process, and chlorine levels in water coming out of both treatment plants are the same, said town officials. In fact, despite differences in chemicals and treatment processes at the two plants, the end result is chemically just about identical.

"It's a different chemistry that does the same thing in the end," DPW Deputy Commissioner Erik Deyoe said. "We've got no data that indicates we've got any water quality issues with this facility [Clapper Road]."

By opening up Clapper Road's output to more of the town, the replacement of the New Salem plant could be put off for years, even with new federal quality regulations going into effect in 2012. Wedding the two systems would be technical breeze. The valves and pipes to do so are already in place, and it would take a DPW employee about 25 minutes to make the change.

Uniting the systems would make it easier for the town to deal with summer usage peaks, as Clapper Road can respond more speedily to these demands.

Despite these apparent advantages, unifying the town's water system and building a new water treatment plant have similar long-term cost impacts. Clapper Road is more costly to operate, so much so that the cost over time of opening the floodgates there would approach the burden of financing a new plant.

Water users, however, would not be dealt an immediate blow in their bills associated with building a new plant, and the town would be able to wait until a more fiscally stable period to make the upgrade. In a time of budget cutbacks and dwindling reserves, bonding roughly $18 million next year is bound to be a scenario leaders wish to avoid.

The Department of Public Works will give a presentation on alternatives to upgrade the town's water supply at a Town Board meeting Wednesday, Sept. 22, at 6 p.m. at Town Hall. There will be the opportunity for public comment at that meeting. Also that evening, Supervisor Sam Messina will present his preliminary budget for 2011, in which the issue of water supply is to play an important role.""

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