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Trustees moved one step closer to keeping Garden City's water supply safe to continue drinking. The village is stepping up air stripping treatment levels to combat traces of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) found at Well 8 and to make the necessary upgrades to water plant 12.

Several bids were awarded last month. Bensin Contracting out of Holtsville came in as lowest bidder for a total cost of $1,085,000 (Contract G, general and mechanical construction). J.K. Electric Co., Inc. out of North Babylon also came in as lowest bidder for a total cost of $451,900 (Contract E, electrical construction) while Layne Christensen Co. of Holbrook will construct a well pump (Contract W) for a total cost of $231,600.

Well 8 has been off line for more than a year and Well 12's VOC levels are on the rise. Both well sites are located at the Garden City Country Club. In late January, Public Works Director Robert Mangan urged trustees to approve the costly but needed $2.1 million bond resolution.

As a result, taxpayers will see another 5 percent increase in their water bill for the 2009-2010 year, according to Village Auditor Jim Olivo. "We have been trying to keep the increases steadily in that neighborhood in the Water Fund. It's really a function of the cash flow of the fund," he said.

Mayor Peter Bee said additional expenses from Garden City's Water Department, which include the expenses of constructing the air stripping towers, does affect Garden City's water rate. "But because they are bonded the costs are spread over a number of years so the impact on any given year is considerably less," he said.

Once this latest increase goes into effect, residents will have seen three consecutive 5 percent increases since 2007. As of June 1, 2008, the rate was 17.65 per 1,000 cubic feet for those using between 2,000 and 6,000 cubic feet, and 26.50 for those using more than 6,000 cubic feet.

In announcing the 2008 increase, Olivo said the village is charging more for higher consumers in an effort to foster conservation. The June 2008 increase was necessary, Olivo said, because of extensive capital project investments made in adding treatment facilities to the system, coupled with a rise in operating, electric and chemical costs.

The increase is not considered a tax. The village's Water Fund is a self-sustaining enterprise that bills its consumers as they utilize water. Mayor Bee noted that some residents in the village do not utilize Garden City's water system, but use other services.

It's suspected that Garden City's water became contaminated because of the Jackson Steel site, an inactive "roll form metal shapes" manufacturing facility located in Mineola.

Jackson Steel operated at the site as early as 1970 and ceased all operations in 1991. Degreasers, according to the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) website, including tetrachloroethylene (PCE), trichloroethylene (TCE) and 1,1,1-trichloroethane (TCA), were used at the facility until March 1985. Sludges from degreasing equipment were stored in drums. Nassau County's Department of Health discovered improper spill control at the waste storage area while inspecting the facility in 1981.

More than 300,000 people obtain drinking water from wells screened in the aquifers that are or could be potentially affected by contamination emanating from the site, according to EPA officials. Garden City's Well 12 is located within a half-mile radius of the site.

Mangan said he would rather remain proactive before another well has to be taken off line. That's why he opted to increase treatment levels at both well sites through use of a larger air-stripping tower at Well 12. Piping is already in place from Well 8 to Well 12 to aid in the increased treatment, he said.

Last summer, Garden City got through with enough water but if Well 12 was lost, the village would have been forced to go outside the village for water, Mangan said.

VOC levels at Well 8 hovered at 4 parts per million (ppm) - 5 ppm being the max- before being taken out of service while levels at Well 12 have already reached 2 ppm and are rising just as recently as the summer of 2008. Mangan admitted the village opted to take Well 8 out of service before it hit 5 ppm to avoid a Nassau County Health Department violation.

The village could possibly recoup monies through a Department of Conservation (DEC) reimbursement. Village officials met with EPA officials several weeks back. Additional testing is currently being performed to back up the village's theory that its water contamination is a direct result of the Jackson Steel site.

Sive, Paget & Riesel, a leader in environmental law, commenced action on behalf of the village against those parties believed to be responsible for the contamination, Village Counsel Gary Fishberg said in January.

The project will take more than six months to complete.


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