A thirst for answers

When Copenhagen’s primary water wells nearly went dry in 2016, officials got through the crisis by trucking in water to fill the town of Denmark water tower. Watertown Daily Times

COPENHAGEN — Since its water crisis of 2016, the village of Copenhagen has been out of compliance with state law because it has not secured a safe and sufficient backup water supply. Now, with a deadline looming, the pressure is on to take action.

In the village’s board meeting on Sept. 24, Mayor Kenneth Clark told the board and members of the public present that he and local engineer Matthew Cooper of Barton & Loguidice met with officials at the Department of Health, USDA Rural Development and the village of West Carthage to discuss the three options Mr. Cooper believes are the most viable.

“It’s our job as a board to find an affordable one that will do the job, hopefully without raising anybody’s water bills,” Mayor Kenneth Clark said.

In their discussion with Claude A. Curley at the Department of Health, Mr. Clark said the village was given until Dec. 31 to target a secondary water supply.

Although he requested until March 31, Mr. Curley couldn’t grant the request at that time.

The three options floated, from the least to most expensive, are to rehabilitate the Woodbattle Road water plant that served Copenhagen before the current wells, use West Carthage’s former water supply near Fuller Road or to buy treated water from West Carthage if a water crisis occurs again.

Each of the three options have drawbacks, Mr. Cooper admitted, but he said it’s too early in the evaluation of the options to make a decision.

Trustee Kimberly Vogt said she is concerned about the water quality of both the Woodbattle Road and the Fuller Road water sources, because they’ve both had serious issues in the past.

“I really have a problem going to a water source that another municipality basically abandoned,” Mrs. Vogt said.

Mr. Cooper said it’s possible to pump water from the former West Carthage supply directly from Pleasant Lake before it goes underneath and around the farms from which it had been contaminated with manure in 1991 and 1992. However, Mrs. Vogt pointed out that Pleasant Lake residents blocked previous efforts to pull water directly from the lake.

Additionally, West Carthage’s old primary source is now the backup supply for both West Carthage and Carthage.

A study was done last year that quoted a $2.1 million cost to renovate the Woodbattle plant, but the mayor said Mr. Curley thought it could be done for around $500,000.

“The Department of Health wants a preliminary engineering report,” Mr. Cooper said, directing the board and the public as to the way forward.

No official contract for professional services has been approved by the board of trustees with Mr. Cooper, his firm or any other firm to perform the evaluation.

Mr. Clark and Mrs. Vogt, each with their own backers, had two different interpretations of the local law that says in the first paragraph that a request for proposals is not required for professional services but goes on to say that the board “shall,” however, put out a call for bids because it’s in the best interest of the village.

Mr. Clark said he wanted to use money from a Rural Development grant, specifically given to the village to clean its primary wells, to pay for the engineering report and would try to get permission to do so although Mrs. Vogt and others at the meeting doubted it’s possible to switch purposes for targeted grants.

In 2016, a $1 million grant was awarded to the village for the purpose of finding a backup water source, which could be used to reimburse the village for the engineering fees.

A special board meeting was set for 6 p.m. Monday at the village office on 9915 State Route 12 to move the discussion forward.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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