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Dewittville Water Project Draws Some Concern

A number of residents attended this week’s Chautauqua Town Board meeting to express their concerns about an expansion of a water district, which will run through Dewittville. Photo by Gregory Bacon

DEWITTVILLE — A number of residents in the Dewittville area expressed their concern that they must now fund a new water district expansion, even though it will allow them to receive public water if they choose.

During this week’s Chautauqua Town Board meeting, Supervisor Don Emhardt explained how the town decided to expand Water District No. 2, which will now include the hamlet of Dewittville.

He noted that the water district currently serves Chautauqua Lake Estates, the Villas and the golf course at Point Chautauqua. That district gets its water from Chautauqua Lake, however, the treatment plant needs to be updated, which is expected to cost $5 million. The update is required by the Environmental Protection Agency.

However, using well water, Emhardt said that will cost around $3 million. So they found ground water available in Dewittville. He said they could run an 8-inch line on Springbrook Road to Route 430 to the water tower, where there would be a small chlorination building. That water tower would then take care of the customers who are currently served in the district.

As the town began developing this plan, Emhardt said residents on the east end of Dewittville asked for public water to be extended to include them and the county Health Department asked the town to include a handful of businesses including the KOA campground.

Emhardt noted that he lives in Dewittville himself and many people have good wells and may not want to accept the public water that will become available. If they decide not to take the municipal water, residents will still be required to pay for the line going through their property, which is expected to be $163 annually for the next 30 years. However, Emhardt said with the public water lines, fire hydrants will be installed, which should lower home owners’ insurance. He said it’s possible the lower insurance rate will cover the $163 annual cost.

He said there are other benefits as well. “If our wells go bad, we will also have a water supply that we can turn to,” Emhardt said.

Residents expressed concern that the well being drilled for public water may hurt the water table, and dry up their wells. Emhardt denied that will happen.

Emhardt said that the Department of Environmental Conservation has also looked at the town’s plans for the water and has approved it, with regards to nearby wetlands.

Mike Manning, the design engineer for the project, said the plan is for the wells to be drilled this summer. He said well water is generally preferred over using water from Chautauqua Lake. “The big fear is blue green algae. That’s not present in groundwater,” he said.

Emhardt said they’re applying for a $2 million grant for the project. He said the project won’t go forward without that grant.

Even if they do get the grant right away, by the time the permits are ready, Emhardt said it could be another five to seven years before the pipes are in the ground and residents to tap into them. “It takes time,” he said.

Once the lines are in, residents will need to hire a private plumber to have the water connected to their house and then that water would be metered. It is estimated that it will cost $573 annually, plus the cost of the water. Emhardt said that number can vary, depending on how many people decide to have municipal water. “The more people, the lower the cost,” he said.

Town attorney Joel Seachrist said if sewer lines are installed, residents are required to hook up to them. With water lines, residents can choose to accept the public water or not, however if they do hook up, they cannot mix the public water with their own existing well water.

A representative with the YMCA camp stated they were against this project. “The YMCA is opposed to any mandate that will force a connection to a system that will essentially take water out from underneath our children to and then force them to purchase it for the benefit of the wealthy lakefront developments,” he said.

The YMCA representative said he trusts well water more than treated water. Manning said the water must be treated because bacteria forms when it travels through pipes.

After the public hearing, the town board voted unanimously in favor of moving forward with the water project.

Emhardt said residents do have the option to oppose the project by gathering petitions and then submitting them in the next 30 days, which would force a townwide referendum. If the required number of petitions were submitted and residents voted against the project in the next election, the town would still be under the mandate to provide water to Chautauqua Lake Estates and others in Water District #2, however Dewittville residents would no longer be able to receive public water if they wanted to.

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