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Algal bloom may be cause of Fredonia’s water problems

A large algal bloom in the Fredonia reservoir in August may have been the root cause of Fredonia’s water problems.

And it could take up to another week before the water is safe to drink.

On Thursday night, the Chautauqua County Board of Health met via zoom. One of the topics discussed was Fredonia’s boil water order. Village residents were told Sept. 10 to not consume any of the water that comes out of their taps. Paul Snyder, a professional engineer with the county Department of Health and Human Services addressed the issue.

Snyder noted how over the past few years, Fredonia has been dealing with a number of water main breaks, which has prompted short boil water orders. But this time the issue is different.

“This is primarily with their water plant,” he said.

The boil water order was enacted due to the turbidity, which exceeded state standards.

“What was kind of alarming was that starting around the middle of August you could see it (turbidities) starting to creep up. Then by the end of August, they just got to the point where their turbidities had exceeded the 95% (state standard),” Snyder explained.

The village gets its water from the Fredonia Reservoir, in the town of Pomfret, which is about 45 acres in size.

“In discussions with their water operator, he said there was a big algal bloom with Daphnia in their reservoir,” Snyder said. “They were just not able to remove it.”

Snyder said the village tried to filter the water, but couldn’t get it to the state standards. He added that the large algal bloom may have been caused with the higher temperatures this summer, along with the lack of rain.

He recommends in the future Fredonia pretreat its raw water an oxidizer.

“That will essentially kill of the algae before it actually gets to their clarifiers,” he said.

Board member Andy O’Brien asked Snyder how long the boil water order could last.

“I estimate by the middle of next week, we should be able to start sampling … so middle of next week, late next week at the earliest,” he said.

During the discussion, Dr. Robert Berke blasted Fredonia officials, saying the village could have easily avoided this problem if it joined the north county water district.

“This is a 30-year-old mess that could have been solved a while ago when they were offered a cross connect with Dunkirk,” he said. “They could have had all the water they want. This is an antiquated system. …. It’s just non-sense.”

Berke said village officials need to work with neighboring communities, instead of keep trying to supply their own water.

“They refused to deal with Dunkirk because they’re ‘Fredonia’ and that’s the problem,” he said. “They’d rather have their own system that’s up the hill, that’s been a pain in the butt for 30 years.”

Berke noted Brocton had similar problems, but fixed their situation by joining the north county water district, supplied by Dunkirk.

Snyder countered, saying Dunkirk’s water plant isn’t able to treat all the water necessary if Fredonia were to join immediately. He thinks Fredonia should be a provider to the north county water district.

“They had a very large water project in 2003 so they have to pay for it anyways. I think they would be a good provider of water to the district. Over time we can plan on upgrading Dunkirk’s plant to take over for Fredonia once they reach to a point where their service life of the plant is finished,” he said.

Health board members discussed if there’s any sort of pressure they can put on Fredonia to get them to join the north county water district. Snyder said the Pomfret supervisor has talked to him about leaving Fredonia and joining the north county water district, once the next phase is completed. If that were to happen, Fredonia would lose a lot of revenue, which could force them to consider other options.

Board member Lilian Ney noted that as summer temperatures continue to rise annually, the problem of algal blooms will likely continue.

“I’m just sort of guessing it won’t get any better in the ensuing years, so it would be a reason to come to grips with it sooner than later,” she said.

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