QUEENSBURY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Monday night’s Queensbury Town Board meeting featured a visit from the New York State Department of Health and Department of Environmental Conservation to talk about the growing investigation into water quality in the Jenkinsville neighborhood.
The groups started with a presentation that included info on the now 16 home wells in the community that have been found to be contaminated with PFOAs and 1,4-dioxane at high enough levels to warrant being supplied with bottled water instead.
The investigation came to be when the Queensbury landfill, one of four in the Jenkinsville area, had its turn as part of a series of state investigations into potentially hazardous landfills.
It and two of the other three in the area were given monitoring wells when they closed, and Queensbury’s wells were what pushed the state to start investigating residential wells in the nearby neighborhood.
On Monday night, state materials management engineer Kevin Wood said testing on the remaining wells and landfills was ongoing.
The McLaughlin landfill is the exception. It didn’t require monitoring wells when it was sealed and closed.
“But it has them now,” Wood said. “We went out, we installed five wells a couple weeks ago.”
Now they have to wait for enough water to collect to sample, which should be done next week.
“If you drive up there, you may see the crew sampling those wells.”
The concerns of a community
At this point in time, DEC staff said more testing was the law of the land. 88 residential wells were identified for sampling, starting in a quarter-mile radius around the Queensbury landfill and then extended to another quarter-mile.
In addition to the 16 wells where contaminants were found in high enough levels, there are four where re-testing is needed, because 1,4-dioxane was found at higher than half of the acceptable amount, but not high enough to take further action on.
That kind of action was on the minds of residents watching on YouTube and Zoom, as well as the few who were able to attend in person.
Noel Harding, a resident of Azure Drive, came prepared with a list of questions from residents throughout the neighborhood, many of them revolving around the timeline going forward.
Some were easy.
How long will the residents affected be given bottled water? Until a more permanent solution can be found.
Once a party responsible for the contaminants is found, will they be made to pay for whatever solution is decided? Yes.
Others are more complicated. Harding pointed out that data may exist surrounding the cancer rates of residents surrounding the area, as compared to those from other parts of Warren County and the north country at large. He asked if studying those numbers could help determine the source of the contaminants.
DEC personnel said the simple truth is that each individual studied could have any number of external life factors, from workplace to lifestyle choices, that would make the data extremely difficult to parse.
A continuing point of concern and confusion for some was the exact level of the threat in the water. The DEC has maintained that the wells affected do not have high enough levels of 1,4-dioxane to cause immediate harm, but that the bottled water being distributed was out of an abundance of caution in regards to possible long-term effects.
One question asked how the water coming out of affected faucets could still be okay to shower and wash produce with – as the DEC has advised it to be – and yet still be hazardous.
The DEC answer was that the threshold of what’s considered hazardous is set at a low enough level that the state can make the call to take action before things get worse.
Harding asked how much worse things could get. The DEC answer was that laboratory animals exposed to high levels of 1,4-dioxane had developed cancers, but that exactly how high the levels would have to be to impact human life more immediately was hard to gauge.
“We don’t know, really, the levels in drinking water that cause health effects in humans.”
DEC staff also answered a question regarding businesses, including two gas stations and a restaurant, located within a half-mile north of the four landfills. Those businesses, and any other structures north of the landfills, are not currently being considered problem areas due to how water flows in the area.
Where the water will come from
Keeping bottled water flowing until a more permanent solution comes is one thing, but the nature of that long-term answer is frightening for some.
Although the DEC and Queensbury Supervisor John Strough maintained that numerous options were being considered, one standout concept is connecting the community to the town water line, which currently ends roughly three miles south at Haviland and Ridge roads.
Doing that would be costly. It was costly in 1990, when the town ordered a survey done to see exactly what the price tag would be.
But Strough said that survey is now being dusted off and updated, to see how feasible it would be today. Geologist John Muncy said he couldn’t yet estimate exactly when the updated survey would be ready as of Monday.
Before finishing up, DEC officials said this would not be the last public forum they would attend with Queensbury, stating again that there was much more to be done.
The DEC will continue to distribute community updates online as they test further.
This article will be updated with full video from Monday night’s meeting.