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Mayville Eyes Improvements To Water System

Matthew Zarbo with Barton & Loguidice discusses options for Mayville’s water system. P-J Photo by Gregory Bacon

MAYVILLE – After being awarded $2 million from the federal government, village officials are trying to decide if they want to use that money for short-term repairs to their water system or invest millions more for long-term improvements.

Matthew Zarbo with Barton & Loguidice was in attendance at the September Village Board meeting to discuss options for a future water project.

In March, the federal government announced Mayville would receive a $2 million water grant. A $500,000 match was required.

Details on the grant were not available until recently. Zarbo said at this week’s meeting that the county or state could come up with the required match. They also may be able to get the match waved, depending on income levels of residents.

Zarbo had been working with the village since 2018, when it looked to install a new well to help improve pressure. Mayville had three working wells at the time, but one of them was weak and they were looking to drill a new well.

In 2020 as the fourth well had been drilled and was in the process of being put into use, the county Health Department issued a “Do not drink” order due to traces of perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA) discovered. The PFNA was found in all three wells, but not in the new well.

Within two weeks of the ‘Do not drink’ order, Mayville put the fourth well on line, but asked for restricted village use of water, as the new well did not have the capacity to serve the entire village. In May of 2021, a filter system was installed on well #1. Between well 1 and the newly installed fourth well, the village could now adequately supply water without restrictions.

Zarbo said even though well 1 and well 4 are both working, neither can support the village on their own, should one of them go down. He recommended putting well 3 back on line and sending it to the filter system already constructed. This way, the village would have three wells, two which filter out the PFNA. Well 2 has been decommissioned.

He also recommended the village look for a new water source so it doesn’t have to filter water. The filters, while completely safe, are very expensive to replace and push water costs higher. If they were successful, the filtered water would only be needed as a back-up source.

Zarbo said the village can use the $2 million grant for to explore a new water source as well as make some critical improvements needed.

ADDITIONAL REPAIRS

According to Zarbo, the village will need to eventually replace its water main. It’s had a number of breaks over the years and doesn’t stand up well to pressure. He estimates it will cost $5.6 million.

To pay for this improvement, Zarbo said the recently approved federal infrastructure bill has a lot of funds available. He believes the village could be eligible for a grant of $3,920,000 as well as a $1,680,000 zero percent interest loan. “Things are better now than they ever have been,” he said.

To pay back the $1.68 million loan, Zarbo said that would mean raising water rates an additional $66 per year on users’ bills for the next 30 years.

Normally Mayville would not be eligible for so much funding, however Zarbo noted that because Mayville has a contaminated water source with PFNA and needs an additional well added, and because there’s additional funds available through the approved infrastructure bill, they are eligible.

He suspects that if Mayville uses its $2 million grant to seek new water and begin treating well 3 but not to replace its water main, when the time comes to replace that line, additional funding will not be available. “Although I can understand the village of Mayville may want to spend anymore on its water system, it doesn’t mean that if you don’t spend that money, that water main won’t need to be replaced. It will eventually need to be replaced,” he said.

According to Zarbo, future grants may become more difficult and loans could be 4-5% interest.

Still, he reiterated, that’s it’s the village board’s decision if they want to do a $2 million water project or a $7.6 million.

No decisions were made by village leaders.

PENDING LAWSUIT

On Sept. 9, Mayville filed a $2.5 million lawsuit against Chautauqua County for the PFNA in its water wells. Health officials said from 2014-2018 there were firefighting foam training exercises at the Chautauqua Municipal Building, the former high school. The foam has been linked to cause higher PFNA levels and is believed to have seeped in through the groundwater.

Zarbo was asked if the day could come that the wells could clear up from the PFNA contaminant. He wasn’t sure. “Prior to 2016, this contaminant was not something that was even talked about,” he said.

The lawsuit funds were not part of Zarbo’s estimates.

Officials were asked about the lawsuit that was filed in state Supreme Court. Village attorney Joe Calimeri said they had been negotiating with county officials about the county paying the $500,000 match, as well other funding options. They also had previously filed a notice of claim which allows the village to pursue a lawsuit should it choose to do so.

Calimeri said the notice of claim had certain time frames for the village to either file the lawsuit or give up its right to do so. The county previously agreed to an extension of Mayville’s notice of claim, but didn’t offer another one. “That … agreement was set to expire and the county’s attorneys wouldn’t grant us a new one, in large part because the attorneys who make that decision were on vacation,” he said.

That, Calimeri explained, is why the village went forward and officially filed the lawsuit.

After Tuesday’s meeting, the village board went into executive session to discuss a legal matter. They didn’t specify if the legal matter was regarding the lawsuit against the county or something unrelated.

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