BRASHER FALLS - The source of well water contamination at the St. Lawrence Central middle and high school has been found, but that discovery has stopped work on a new well until contamination is cleared from the old one.
The new well is on hold, Superintendent Stephen M. Putman said.
He said they discovered a significant leak in the heating lines in one area of the crawl space, and that runoff was flowing toward the boiler room and the old well.
The original building is heated with steam and the rest of the district with hot water. We were looking at heat exchangers and all these sort of obvious places. The leak occurred in the steam heating lines that are original from the 1950s and are scheduled to be replaced in the upcoming capital project. It was an area of the crawl space under the building, under the middle school gym and toward the boiler and well, Mr. Putman said.
It was so frustrating not knowing where the source was. Were 99.9 percent sure thats where it was coming from, he added.
The pipes were replaced and that has stopped the contamination, according to Mr. Putman. But he said theyve been directed by the Department of Environmental Conservation to pump water from the old well into the sewer system to rid the system of all contamination. They are working with the DEC, Department of Health and state Education Departments Facilities Planning.
They have been pumping about 20,000 gallons a day out of the old well into the new sewer system. The expectation is that by doing this, we will be able to remove the contamination. After two days of testing, the water tests that came back showed that the contamination was decreased by like 80 percent. Well keep pumping and testing. Theres only so much contamination in them, he said.
But, as they continue pumping and testing water in the old well, Mr. Putman said theyve been told to put the new well on hold.
We were successful in drilling a new well, but we will not do the required tests on that well and connect it to the school until the contamination is cleared from the old well. They dont want us potentially drawing contamination toward the new well, he said.
Mr. Putman said it was too early to predict when they would be able to begin testing water in the new well and put it to use at the middle and high school.
Its going to be judged by the water tests. We dont know, he said.
In the meantime, theyll continue to provide water dispensers around the school.
I dont think well be on the new well water until after Christmas break at the earliest, Mr. Putman said, noting that once they received satisfactory tests from the old well, they would have to do a 72-hour pump test at the new well and then have contractors hook it up.
He said they were being cautious as they moved forward.
We do not want to take any chance of drawing the polluted water toward the new well, he said.
The problem with the well was discovered in early November when the water took on a different color and odor. The district has been working with the Department of Health since then and has restricted the use of well water in the middle and high school in favor of bottled water and now water dispensers.
Early tests run by the Department of Health had indicated a level of glycol higher than the regulatory standard in the well water. Mr. Putman said the test results showed rates of between 2.6 and 12 parts per million of ethylene glycol, which he said were relatively low amounts.
Once the problem with the water was discovered, the district received authorization from the state Education Department to dig a new well earlier than scheduled. It has been planned as part of an upcoming capital project.