$100,000 estimated cost pours cold water on Town of Lee test well-drilling proposal

Published Feb 14, 2018 at 4:00pm

TOWN OF LEE — The town is shutting off the faucet on a proposed well-drilling venture that had been geared to explore creating its own water system.

After reviewing preliminary test costs of over $100,000 based on state requirements, Town Board members Tuesday night agreed with Lee Supervisor John Urtz’s recommendation for “holding right now at the conceptual level.”

The proposal conceivably could “be looked at later some time,” said councilman Alan Trombley. The concept would “never go away....You’ve got all the documentation for it,” Urtz added.

The town several months ago began discussing the feasibility of having its own water system using groundwater from wells, as a possibly more economical option than its current purchasing of water directly from the City of Rome; that water is for about 1,300 customer accounts in Lee’s current water system. The town last July had been ready to start well-drillng at a Lee Town Park site by a wooded area, but drilling equipment was withdrawn due to state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) issues regarding possible water basin impacts.

Board members Tuesday reviewed a new report by the Plumley Engineering company that was coordinating the project for the town, and has been in contact with the state to clarify requirements.

Among cost estimates for the proposed town park site are about $113,000 for preliminary steps including determining boundaries between two neighboring water basins; field work; completing test wells; and water sampling. After that there could be further costs totaling an additional estimated $105,000 to install a “production well,” conduct pump tests, and evaluate results for potential adverse impacts along with preparing environmental impact statements for DEC review.

Urtz commented that “depending on what you find with the test wells,” the town “may not do it anyway,” regarding a well system.

“We’re chasing the tail,” Urtz commented. Councilman Joshua Szyper commented it could involve “a long time to get your money back” on the overall venture.

But councilman Karl Matt observed that “by the same token,” the town could “be paying a lot of money to buy water” from the city going forward. However, he later added that for the well-drilling concept, “the first step is a substantial investment.”

The proposed town park well-drilling site straddles the Great Lakes and Mohawk Valley watersheds; the state has said this prompted a need to determine water-drawing effects and water-recovery details for the watersheds.

The town negotiates water-usage contracts with Rome, and anticipates that the costs will increase due to factors including the many state-mandated improvements being made in the city’s water system.