The drama surrounding flooded residents of Wawarsing whose homes rest over the leaking Delaware Aqueduct has escalated yet another notch: 10 homes out of 22 whose water was tested by the Ulster County Health Department have shown positive results for the presence of e.coli and coliform bacteria earlier this week. The residents in that area whose water tested positive were advised to not only avoid drinking the water, but also to not wash produce or brush teeth with it.
Dean Palen, the director of the Ulster County Health Department, says that the affected water supplies come from "shallow wells," which are often susceptible to runoff from the land and other contaminants, while "drilled wells" that have sanitary seals and casings are less likely to be contaminated.
While this is certainly bad news for the affected residents, Palen says that this basically confirms many of their suspicions, and many of them had already stopped using their water prior to these findings.
Furthermore, the findings do not necessarily show that the leaking Delaware Aqueduct is responsible for the residents' water's contamination. It is possible that the saturated soil is affecting or damaging the septic systems in the area, but there are other factors which could contribute to water contamination of this sort as well.
Residents were called on Friday by James Rodden, the UC Health Department official who is responsible for testing in the Wawarsing area, and further tests of home's water supplies are imminent.
The residents in the area believe that their regular and severe flooding every year is being caused by the millions of gallons of leaked water coming from the cracked Delaware Aqueduct which runs underneath the town of Wawarsing, and which is cared for by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYC DEP). Tests are currently underway from the DEP and the federally funded United States Geological Survey (USGS) to ascertain the level of accountability to which the DEP should be held.
Michael Saucier, a spokesperson for DEP, offered the following statement with regard to the matter: "DEP is aware of the findings and is trying to identify any effect the tunnel may be having. In the meantime, we are working with the Ulster County Health Department, which is advising residents on this issue."
The second Public Action Committee meeting, comprised of residents in the affected area, county and town legislators, engineers and DEP representatives, will be held at Town Hall on Tuesday, July 8 at 4 p.m. The committee's purpose is to keep residents and officials informed of the progress of the testing.
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