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Group urges Fredonia to make water connection

An advocacy group for the area’s economy and municipalities has announced its backing for new water interconnections between the village of Fredonia and the North County Water District.

In a letter to the Village Board and Mayor Douglas Essek, which was read during Monday’s meeting, the Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation’s Local Economic Development committee said the “new interconnections are a win-win for the village, which will face no out-of-pocket costs.”

Funding for these interconnections, the group said, is already included in the fully funded $3 million North County Water District Grant.

“The new interconnection are needed to prevent future emergency situations, for both village residents and other (North County Water District) users in neighboring communities,” wrote Richard Johnson, chair of the committee. “It would provide a redundant source of water to meet at least some of the village’s daily demands when needed, eliminate the need for construction of additional storage tank(s), and would prevent violations of the New York state Sanitary Code. While we realize that these interconnects would not benefit the current water emergency, there will undoubtedly be other emergencies down the road that could be resolved or eased with these interconnects.”

Behind the group’s push for the interconnect is the current emergency facing users of the village of Fredonia water system.

Since Sept. 10, customers have had to boil water before consuming. Village officials blame the filtration system while the county Health Board pointed to an algal bloom in the reservoir.

It is hoped the emergency will be ending this week. However, another bottled water distribution event is taking place at the Department of Public Works on Eagle Street today form 4 to 7 p.m.

Residents picking up water have indicated they are growing increasingly frustrated with an unstable system. Business users — and the State University of New York at Fredonia with 4,000 students — are also facing challenges with the system, which has serious issues moving even after this emergency situation is rectified.

Dredging needs to be done on the reservoir, the chief water source for the village, as well as a number of maintenance items that will cost village users millions of dollars. Moving forward, water uncertainty could also take a toll on development in the village, the economic committee noted.

“Perhaps most importantly to the future of Fredonia, stronger interconnections between the (North County Water District) and the village would encourage new business growth and would better support organizations already planning to locate in Fredonia, like Brooks Memorial Hospital. Businesses must have a robust uninterrupted secondary source of water to operate.”

Village Board members, according to the online agenda, were expected to take action on two water resolutions including the interconnect. That, however, did not happen.

“The need for constructing new interconnections has been well documented and are critical to growing the village’s economy and protecting the wellbeing of our citizens,” Johnson wrote.

Trustee James Lynden noted his support the centuries-old system that has been the focus of numerous water emergencies over the past decade. “The can was kicked down the road for too long,” he said, citing studies done on village water in 2016 and 2017. “I should hope that this won’t happen again. … But I don’t believe this is the need to eliminate a fine, fresh-water resource that we have.”

Lynden was especially fired up by a recent Chautauqua County Health Board meeting last week in which Dr. Robert Berke’s recent comments criticized the village for its system. “This is a 30-year-old mess that could have been solved a while ago when they were offered a cross connect with Dunkirk,” Berke said. “They could have had all the water they want. This is an antiquated system. …. It’s just nonsense.”

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