Classes canceled at SUNY New Paltz pending water sample results

New York News

NEW PALTZ, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The Village of New Paltz is under a “do not drink” advisory for its tap water. It was ordered by New York State Department of Health and Ulster County Department of Health. 

On Wednesday, Governor Cuomo said that preliminary test results showed non-detectable levels of petroleum in the village water tanks, but that more testing is needed. 

In the meantime, the college mandated all resident students at SUNY New Paltz to leave campus.  

Rhys Kane is a junior and said Rochester is home for him. Rather than making the six-hour drive, he said he will be couch surfing. “I have 4 friends that are letting me crash on their couches so I’m very fortunate,” said Kane.  

Many students hopped on a chartered bus to NYC and Long Island at a discounted rate. 

A spokesperson for the school said the dining hall serves thousands of students every day and since they cannot drink or cook with the water, they are unable to serve meals. 

Health officials said it was OK to shower and wash clothes, but students said they didn’t feel comfortable doing that either. “Some people are scared of chemical reactions or something,” said Nikka Garcia, a freshman student. 

According to the Governor’s office, the source of the contamination is a compromised underground fuel line for the village’s water treatment plant heating system. 

Over the weekend, residents had started to complain of an odor. “Someone called us the night before and said people in the village are smelling gad in the drinking water. Then that night, I remember brushing my teeth and was like I think I smell it,” said Dan Pine, a resident. 

A treatment plant operator reportedly spotted a sheen on top of one of the reservoirs too. 

The Governor said the Department of Environmental Conservation is now overseeing the cleanup. 

The Governor’s office sent two 6700 gallon water tankers, one 500 gallon water buffalo and 24 pallets of bottled water. 

Students said while it will be nice to have a few days off, they’re concerned and anxious for answers as to exactly what they had been drinking. “We’re all excited to leave and go home and see our family, but it’s kinda like scary to know that there was gasoline in the water. That’s really dangerous,” said Diego Figuroa.   

“I drink like a gallon of tap water a day so I’m worried about that,” said Kane.   

 A spokesperson for SUNY New Paltz said the college is making arrangements for students who do not have a place to go, including their international students. They are condensing the residence halls and keeping everyone in one spot in order to supervise and supply water in one location. 

Faculty is still reporting for work, academic buildings will stay open and many of the student athletes will remain on campus. 

“I’m pleased to announce that after quickly mobilizing state resources and locating the source of the contamination, our tests show non-detectable levels for petroleum compounds in the New Paltz water system,” Governor Cuomo said.  

According to the Governor’s office, flushing will continue throughout the day Wednesday. Additional samples will be collected Thursday, and those results will help determine when the do not drink advisory can be safely and effectively lifted. DEC Spill Response experts are overseeing development and implementation of a cleanup plan to address this spill.   

Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan said, “I would like to thank Governor Andrew Cuomo and officials at all levels of government for their hard work in responding to this incident in a coordinated and comprehensive manner. Moving forward, our number one priority remains ensuring the health and safety of all impacted residents. We are encouraged based on preliminary test results once we can fully ensure the systems integrity we will lift the “Do Not Drink Advisory.” 

Village of New Paltz Mayor Tim Rogers said, New Paltz has worked closely with NYS and Ulster County to return water service to our residents, businesses, and schools. Our community is incredibly grateful to Governor Andrew Cuomo, the State and County officials who have exhibited exemplary responsiveness and support.” 

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