SARANAC LAKE - The state Department of Health is advising residents who have wells in flooded areas, especially people who live downstream from the village's wastewater treatment plant, that their water may be unsafe to drink.
"NYSDOH would like to advise residents in the flood zone that they should assume that all water sources are unsafe to drink," the Health Department said in a press release issued late Friday afternoon. "The recent flooding in the vicinity of Saranac Lake has caused a breach of the final clarifier at the Saranac Lake sewer plant due to flood waters. As a precaution, residents downstream from the plant are advised not to drink from private wells that have been flooded."
The sewer plant is able to complete primary and secondary treatment of the sludge, the release says. But biological suspended solids - partially treated sewage - is being released into the Saranac River. Raw sewage is not being released, the release states.
"The issue is when your well is flooded, you need to assume that the water source is unsafe," Susan Kennedy, a DOH public health engineer based in Saranac Lake, told the Enterprise Friday. "Certainly people that are downstream of the discharge from the sewer plant should be concerned, but we are concerned about all water supplies that are flooded. If your well has been covered over with flood waters, it needs to be disinfected."
Until the flood has receded and the wells can be disinfected, Kennedy said people should take steps to protect their health by boiling their drinking water. Other options would be to disinfect the water using Clorox-brand liquid chlorine beach - put in eight drops per gallon, stir it and let the water stand for 30 minutes - or to use bottled water certified by the Health Department.
After the flood waters have receded, Kennedy said homeowners need to disinfect their well following specific procedures, which DOH can provide. After the well has been disinfected, it should also be tested for bacterial contamination.
"The state Department of Health can assist flood victims with that," Kennedy said.
Village Sewer Plant Operator Kevin Pratt said the the state Department of Environmental Conservation has been notified of the situation and is working with the village.
"As soon as the river drops a little bit I'm hopeful that we'll get things back to normal," he said.
Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.