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St. Lawrence Central must come up with water plan by Friday

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BRASHER FALLS - The St. Lawrence Central School District continues to work with the state Department of Health to resolve its well water issues at the elementary and middle/senior high school buildings.

Superintendent Stephan J. Vigliotti Sr. said they had met with Department of Health officials on Nov. 22 and must submit a plan of action to them by Friday.

Ronald E. Sheppard, public health engineer for the Department of Health, said in a letter to district officials that plans for a disinfection system prepared by a licensed professional engineer must be provided to his office for review and approval by Friday and, once approved, must be installed “within a reasonable timeframe, which will be determined at a later date.”

“We have to put a plan in place by December 6,” Mr. Vigliotti said.

He said their initial plan will likely be the installation of chlorination systems at both schools to make the water potable again.

“For us, it’s going to be a two-phase process. The first phase is going to be to make the water potable in the short term. They are just tentative plans, but it will probably entail installing chlorination systems at both the elementary and high school,” he said. “The fact of the matter is, to take care of the problem that we have right now, which is coliform, the chlorination system will do that.”

Long-term resolution of the problem, however, will involve more work and likely a capital project.

“In the bigger picture, they’ve also made recommendations in regard to our water storage tanks and piping and filtration system. That is far more encompassing and we will have to address that. We won’t have to address it before we get the water turned back on. To get the water back on we have to install an operating chlorination system to get rid of the coliform problem,” Mr. Vigliotti said.

They were scheduled to Monday meet with representatives from SEI Design Group, the district’s architectural firm.

“We have an engineer coming in today to look at it. They’re going to coordinate with the Department of Health directly, which will be helpful,” he said.

Funding for a capital project will have to be among their considerations when moving ahead, according to the superintendent.

“We certainly can’t address it through our general fund. This is extensive. Those improvements are going to speak to the water quality; not the potability of the water, but the actual quality of the water,” he said.

Mr. Vigliotti said that, as long as they’re moving ahead with plans, the Friday Department of Health deadline could be a “soft deadline.”

“We want to get the water turned on,” he said.

In two letters to district officials, both dated Nov. 20, Mr. Sheppard detailed the problems with the district’s well water, leading them to revoke St. Lawrence Central’s waiver to operate two wells on their property.

Mr. Sheppard noted that a routine coliform bacteria sample collected Nov. 5 at the elementary school tested positive for total coliform, but negative for e. coli.

“Four repeat samples were collected on November 7th, in response to the positive sample. All four repeat samples were positive for total coliform, negative for e. coli,” Mr. Sheppard wrote.

He said he visited the school on Nov. 12 and collected four surveillance samples, with three of those testing positive for coliform, but negative for e. coli. The fourth sample was negative for total coliform.

Mr. Sheppard said that, in his discussions with Fred H. McLaughlin, the district’s director of transportation, buildings and grounds, they determined that the installation of a water softening system in late October was completed without sufficiently shock disinfecting the system afterward.

“It was agreed that the school would proceed with completing a shock disinfection of the system on November 13th. On November 18, after completing the shock disinfection, a total of five coliform samples were collected. Of the five samples, four were negative for total coliform. The fifth, collected from the softener outlet tap, was positive for total coliform, negative for e. coli,” he said.

Because of the numerous samples that confirmed the presence of total coliform bacteria in the water system, a boil water advisory was issued for the elementary school on Nov. 8 and remains in effect, with drinking fountains being shut off throughout the school, bottled water being provided and special precautions being implemented for the preparation and handling of food in the kitchen.

At the middle and high school, Mr. Sheppard said he collected a surveillance sample on Nov. 12 from the vegetable sink in the kitchen, which tested positive for total coliform, but negative for e. coli.

As was the case at the elementary school, they determined that the installation of a water softening system in late October was completed without sufficiently shock disinfecting the system afterward.

They completed a shock disinfection on Nov. 15 and, on Nov. 18, five coliform samples were collected from various locations within the school. Of the five samples, four were positive for total coliform, but negative for e. coli, according to Mr. Sheppard.

The school was placed on a boil water advisory on Nov. 19, and that remains in effect. Water fountains have also been shut off throughout the school, the district is providing bottled water, and they have instituted special precautions for preparing and handling food in the kitchen.

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