Underground Fuel Line ID’d as Potential Source of Water Woes

DEC employees examine New Paltz Reservoir Number Four Tuesday.

State and local officials have identified the potential source of New Paltz’s water problems.

A sheen observed at one of New Paltz’s local reservoirs likely stems from a compromised underground fuel line for the Village of New Paltz Water Treatment Plant’s heating system, according to the Governor’s Office.

The sheen and the resulting state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) investigation was first reported by The Other Hudson Valley.

Residents using the village’s municipal water system began complaining of a kerosene or natural gas odor to their water over the weekend. New Paltz officials issued a ‘Do Not Drink’ advisory early Monday, a day before a spill report was filed with the DEC for the reservoir now believed to be the source of the noxious odor.

The DEC has yet to answer a list of questions sent Tuesday by The Other Hudson Valley.

The potential source of the odor, New Paltz’s Reservoir Number 4, is located off Mountain Rest Road, directly adjacent to the water treatment plant. DEC workers were seen at 1 p.m. Tuesday investigating the reservoir.

The Village of New Paltz collected samples Monday now being tested by the state Department of Health and private companies. New Paltz Mayor Tim Rogers said he hopes these results would come back Wednesday.

The DOH is also collecting its own samples, according to the Governor’s office, and is working with local officials on a plan to flush the water from the municipal system.

More than 40,000 gallons of potable water have been delivered to New Paltz, according to the Governor’s office.

The tanker supplying the SUNY New Paltz dining hall with potable water.

Three 6,700-gallon tankers and four 500-gallon “gorilla” tankers are available so residents and SUNY New Paltz students can hydrate. For a full list of their locations, click here.

Despite the rapid response from local and state officials, life in the community of 14,000 has been disrupted, with stores cleared of bottled water, the SUNY New Paltz campus shuttered for at least a week, and some businesses temporarily closing.

Classes at SUNY New Paltz were cancelled after 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, and students were mandated to vacate by noon today, though water and limited dining options would be available to those unable to leave, according to emails sent to students. Students should expect to be away until Sunday.

This morning, the campus was mostly vacant, with the last students packing up to drive or take buses elsewhere.

A little more than 2.800 of the almost 8,000 students live on-campus, according to a university spokesperson.

A water tanker was supplying water to the dining hall so it could stay open, and a scattering of students were seen eating there Wednesday morning.

The university sent out a campus-wide email Monday about the ‘Do Not Drink’ advisory and has been updating students on a consistent basis via email and the university’s text message system, according to students.

The emails warn to not use the water for drinking, cooking, or making ice cubes but states it is fine to bathe or do laundry, keeping with the village’s advisory.

However, an email sent to students at 4:19 p.m. Monday states brushing one’s teeth with the water “is also deemed safe, but any individual with concerns should brush using bottled water.”

Students said the university did not carry bottled water prior to the ‘Do Not Drink’ advisory because they were single-use plastic items, and many grocery stores were cleared out of bottled water when they went looking.

SUNY New Paltz student Victoria Rose said she went to the local Shop Rite after the advisory was announced, but the supermarket had essentially been cleared out of bottled water.

All her friends had left Tuesday, Rose said while packing a car outside one of the university’s dorms.

New Paltz student JD Shamoun said the closing of the school has been very disruptive for students.

“Everyone has been upset,” he said.

A sign warns the parched at SUNY New Paltz Wednesday.

Professors mostly told students to continue completing assignments through the week as though the university was still open, Shamoun said.

Shamoun was on his way to New York City to stay with one of his parents, he said, a plan that had not come without arguments.

The four schools in the New Paltz Central School District were closed Tuesday because three of them are on the municipal water supply. They were closed for a snow day Monday, the first day of the ‘Do Not Drink’ advisory.

However, the schools were re-opened Wednesday, despite an online petition to keep them shut until their water was deemed safe.

Water fountains were blocked off, and the three schools on the municipal water supply would truck in water from the fourth, Lenape Elementary, which has a well, according to a letter to parents by Interim Superintendent Bernard Josefsberg.

Mayor Rogers said Tuesday complaints about the malodorous water were scattered throughout the community.

The community of New Paltz consists of two interconnected but distinct municipalities, the village and the town. The town receives water for its municipal system from the village.

Danny Asis, a village resident, said he found out about the advisory early in the week, but didn’t experience it himself before this morning, when he absent-mindedly took a swig of water from a bottle he filled up Tuesday or Wednesday.

The taste of the water was so bad he immediately spit it out.

He compared the taste to the smell of propane or kerosene.

The disruptions have not been extreme, Asis said, and the tight-knit community has been helping each other out during the situation.

“…like we always do,” Asis finished with a laugh.

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