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Neighbor Fight II: Well versus sewer

Feb 10, 2011 8:13 am
Another form of neighbor dispute has arisen in the Columbia County town of Germantown, where a woman, her four children and her husband are saying they can’t drink the water from their well because it’s contaminated with fecal coliform from the town’s wastewater treatment plant just in front of their house... and close by the Hudson River, according to the Register-Star. The culprit for the problem, according to Jennefer Klein, is an overflow pipe, connected to the plant, that empties into a creek that then flows through her property. The town installed it in 2003 through eminent domain proceedings... and Klein’s well cap is just 44 feet away from where that pipe ends. Testing conducted by the county Health Department indicates that water samples from Klein’s well are positive for total coliform, with the agency noting that “this result indicates that the water was not of a satisfactory sanitary quality” and that “water of good sanitary quality should have no E.coli or total coliform bacteria.” The issues started in 2005, when tenants of the home complained of a smell — and continued into 2009, when Klein and her family, who purchased it in 2003, moved back onto the property. Town officials have maintained it’s not the wastewater plant that’s contaminating her water, but Klein isn’t entirely convinced and says she’s frustrated with their lack of communication. The state Department of Environmental Conservation approved the town’s plans to install the pipe in 2003 but the DEC doesn’t regulate drinking water — that’s the health department’s jurisdiction. The well is shared between Klein and Dr. George Verrilli, who said the well was installed in the late 70s or early 80s and there was no problem with water quality before the pipe was installed in 2003. Dr. Verrilli has also written letters to the town and to Town Supervisor Roy Brown, who simultaneously serves as the Chairman of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors, about the issue. Brown said he’d met with all involved agencies “and they all agree it’s not the town’s problem... I maintain that we are still within our lawful, permitted requirements. The testing so far is indicating that here are higher levels of E.coli entering the stream somewhere above the plant. My educated guess at this point is the contamination that is seeping into the well is coming from other sources that are linked to that stream.”