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New regulations the spur for water discussion

Call for public comment sees few takers at recent meeting

As the old adage goes, if it ain't broke, don't fix itand as evidenced by the existence of thousands of homes and businesses, the Bethlehem water system is working. But new federal regulations slated for 2012 require a decision on the future of Bethlehem's water supply must be made sooner rather than later.

That's when new regulations on the monitoring of disinfectant byproducts" go into effect, and unfortunately for the Town of Bethlehem, the new Environmental Protection Agency guidelines have a deep impact on the status quo.

In short, chlorine added to drinking water reacts with organic compounds to form the aforementioned byproducts, chemicals like chlorite or haloacetic acids. The government has required testing for these elements, but in 2012 to town will have to draw samples from the furthest limits of the system, where the water sits longer and has more opportunity to form these byproducts.

So the town needs to make a change to keep water from the Vly Creek Reservoir moving through the system faster. Town engineers are suggesting sending well water processed by the Clapper Road Water Treatment Plant out into the larger system, keeping things flowing in the far reaches of the water system. The well water it draws also does not contain organic matter like algae, so the water won't form byproducts, unlike the above-ground reservoir water drawn by the New Salem plant.

"What it's going to do is change the water age at parts of the system," said Deputy DWP Commissioner Erik Deyoe.

The other alternatives " buying more water from the City of Albany or rebuilding the New Salem plant " would also meet the EPA requirements. All of the options would have consequences on how costly and flexible the town's supply will be for years to come.

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