WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) — Potentially dangerous chemicals have been found in the Black River.
According to Watertown City Manager Kenneth Mix, elevated levels of disinfectant bi-products Trihalomethane and Halocetic Acid have been detected in city drinking water.
“They’re caused when we disinfect the water with chlorine,” Mix explained. “It interacts with organic matter and causes these products. Which are known to cause health issues.”
Although the water has been deemed safe to drink, the City is under a consent order from the Environmental Protection Agency. This requires Watertown to solve the issue through different filtration methods.
This includes techniques such as sedimentation or ozonation, both with high price tags. The City expects the project will cost roughly $50 million.
Because of its proximity to the Fort Drum military base, Watertown recently requested $20 million from the DoD’s Defense Community Infrastructure program, however, was denied funding.
So now the City is seeking alternative funding sources.
“We’ve still got a couple of outside sources of funding we’re waiting on,” Mix said. “We’ve applied to the state for a water and infrastructure improvement grant. But the majority of it will come through borrowing.”
Mix said Watertown City Council approved a bond ordinance that will allow the City to borrow up to $50 million. All of which could also impact water rates.
“The debt can only be paid through the water fees,” Mix added. “It’s not part of our general fund. It has to be solely paid through the money we collect for water usage.”
Adding, “It’s probably the largest project the City’s ever undertaken. Unfortunately, it does have to be done. We need safe drinking water.”
Watertown is required to submit all plans to the EPA by the end of 2023. Construction on these water treatment enhancements will likely start early next year.