WATERLOO — Village water superintendent Jim Bromka was well aware of the harmful algal blooms spotted in Seneca Lake late this summer.
“I was hoping we’d dodged it getting into our water system, but that didn’t happen,” Bromka told the Village Board Monday.
However, Bromka told trustees that there were some toxins measured at very low levels, and that the water has been and continues to be safe to drink.
Recent testing has shown no toxins present, he added.
Nonetheless, the presence of the toxins may result in the village getting another $3 million from the state toward a planned upgrade to its water treatment plant. Mayor Ted Young said village officials were informed Friday that they may be eligible for the additional funding due to the blue-green algae that was found in the water supply. The village is waiting for approval on another $3 million grant it wants to use toward the treatment plant.
Bromka said the village has been working through state Sen. Pamela Helming, R-54 of Canandaigua, on the extra funding. He said Helming toured the village’s treatment plant on Kime Road in Fayette recently and has been in contact with village officials since the algae was discovered.
“The raw water and the finished water were tested Sept. 28 and were OK,” Bromka reported. “The next day, something happened overnight, and there was blue-green algae all over the surface, so we did more sampling Sept. 29.”
He said the samples were taken to the state’s Wadsworth Lab in Albany for testing. On Sept. 30, the lab told village and Seneca County Health Department officials the tests came back negative.
“But, on Oct. 1 Tom Scoles from the county Health Department called to say the lab had a mixup in samples and were in error,” Bromka said. “Our water did show a light hit of toxins. There were more samples taken Oct. 2. The raw water was fine, but they found toxins in the clear well finished water, which was surprising.”
A conference call with state Health Department officials followed. Samples were taken again Oct. 5-6, and those showed no toxins. No further tests have been done, Bromka said.
“We may be eligible for extra state aid to help filter out water to remove these toxins,” Bromka said. “The city of Auburn got extra money last year because of their algae problem. We’ll likely tweak our project to further upgrade the treatment process.”
He told the board that if additional funds are received, the improvements would not be completed for two years. That leaves the question of what to do next year if the blue-green algae returns.
“We’ll be working on a plan to tweak the system to deal with it next year,” Bromka said. “We have formed a good team to deal with this. We want to make sure we do the right thing.”
Young emphasized that drinking the water won’t jeopardize anyone’s health.
On Friday, Scoles, the principal sanitarian with the county Health Department, issued a statement that the algal toxins levels found in the Sept. 29 samples were below the Environmental Protection Agency’s 10-day health advisory level of 0.3 micrograms per liter for sensitive populations and well below the advisory level for adults of 1.6 micrograms per liter. Follow-up samples of the water on Oct. 3 showed no detectable levels of algal toxins.
Scoles agreed the water is safe for residents to consume for all uses.
The village not only provides drinking water for its roughly 5,200 residents, but several water districts in northern and southern Seneca County, along with del Lago Resort & Casino in Tyre.