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Mayville Considers Lawsuit Over Water Issues

Matt Zarbo, an engineer with Barton and Loguidice, and William Boria, water resource specialist with the Chautauqua County Health Department, brief the Mayville Village Board during a recent meeting. P-J photo by Jay Young

MAYVILLE — The Mayville Village Board is weighing a number of different engineering options to ensure the future safety of its public water supply, and also discussed joining a national class action lawsuit at a recent meeting.

Village attorney Joe Calimeri stated that the village was contacted by the New York-based law firm Napoli Shkolnik, which is litigating a case on behalf of municipal water suppliers affected by contaminants including PFNA.

The class action suit, filed on Jan. 8, 2020, in the United States District Court of South Carolina, would not require any out-of-pocket expenses should the village choose to join the plaintiffs.

Mayor Ken Shearer said he saw no downside to joining the lawsuit, and the board decided to discuss the matter further at next week’s budget meeting.

“They were very interested and very gung-ho to see if Mayville would join the lawsuit. Right now there are about 500 municipal water suppliers throughout the country that are a part of this,” Calimeri said. “It is a lawsuit against some of the big corporations and manufacturers who use the chemical that often leads to this type of contaminant. The major players in terms of the defendants are 3M, which is one of the bigger manufacturers, along with DuPont and a lot of their subsidiaries.”

Participation from the village would “require manpower support from your water department. If you sign up they will send someone down here. They are going to go through records, rate information, how many rate payers you have, any testing that you have done locally,” Calimeri said.

Calimeri noted that should the plaintiffs prevail in this case, there would not be direct financial compensation.

“If you are successful in a class action, if they are successful, the way it is structured no money is going to go directly to the village of Mayville,” Calimeri said. “What they are looking to do is get any financial reward put into a trust and then all of the main participants, such as the village of Mayville, would make an application for the trust to help offset remediation costs.”

While the lawsuit deals directly with large-scale manufacturers allegedly responsible for products causing PFNA contamination, there may also be the possibility of identifying a culpable local party.

“They will identify an LRP for you if they believe they can, which is a local responsible party,” Calimeri said. “What they will do is give you all of the information regarding the LRP that will allow you to decide if you want to pursue any action.”

ENGINEERING PLANS

William Boria, a water resource specialist with the Chautauqua County Health Department, and Matt Zarbo, a professional engineer with Barton and Loguidice, were joined by state officials via Zoom for Tuesday’s meeting to discuss future plans for the Mayville municipal water system.

Joining them were Dr. Gary Ginsberg, director of the Center for Environmental Health for the New York State Department of Health, and Paul Snyder, a professional engineer with the county Health Department.

Boria and Zarbo offered explanations to the public of what has transpired with water contamination thus far, the health impacts of PFNA and related chemicals, and recommendations of what should be done moving forward.

“One of the things we are looking into and will likely be arriving on site soon is a pilot. What a pilot is, it is going to test different technologies to treat Well 1, 2 is going to go away anyway, or Well 3,” Zarbo said.

The pilot program is run by StreamGo Water Solutions, and will test four different methods for removing the contaminant from the affected wells, including carbon filtration, ion exchange, reverse osmosis and electro-oxidation.

If successful, treatment removing PFNA may allow for the continued use of contaminated wells.

“They are working with us to attempt to treat the water, and they are going to test four different technologies. We are in the process of reviewing their pilot plan,” Zarbo said. “Them doing the pilot is also beneficial for their firm as well because they are getting to test some of these technologies they are wanting to test against this contaminant.”

Zarbo and Boria explained that because PFNA is a newly discovered contaminant that has only been tested for recently, treatment solutions and acceptable tolerance levels in public water supplies are still being worked out.

Zarbo also briefed the board on a community development block grant that could be helpful in funding engineering work moving forward.

“The health department would totally endorse finding an additional source and another aquifer that is good quality water,” Boria said. “However that is going to take some time, and relying on one well is a little risky especially when we are coming into the summer. We would like to see the village do both tracks. Maybe the intermediate solution could be to have treatment on one or more of your contaminated wells.”

Pursuing both a treatment option and engineering work to find a new groundwater source would give the village more options in the future.

“We have to do these engineering investigations, these engineering studies, to really come up with a solution, and right now we don’t know what the best answer is,” Zarbo said. “We don’t know what it is going to cost the village treatment-wise or new groundwater source-wise, but that is what would be shaken out in these initial engineering evaluations.”

Mayor Shearer praised the cooperation that has taken place to assist the village at all levels during the water crisis.

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