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Project to bring clean water to Orleans starts this month

Julia Botero
WRVO News File Photo
High levels of chloride in the Orleans drinking water has ruined appliances and forced many residents to drink bottled water.

The town of Orleans in the Thousand Islands hopes to begin a project this year that will bring clean drinking water to its residents after many of the homeowners there have had to stop using their tap water because of high levels of salt. Many believe the source is a state road salt barn on County Route 12. 

Orleans resident Stephanie Weiss has been at the forefront of the effort among her neighbors to find a clean water solution to the chloride contamination. Weiss says her family no longer uses tap water for drinking or cooking after the corrosive water damaged several appliances in their home.

She says the situation has been even worse for some of her neighbors.

"Failing pumps that cause flooding in your basement, and even one one friend who had a boiler that the corrosion caused a fire," Weiss said. "So there are people dealing with this stuff on a regular basis and having access to water that’s not causing these kinds of problems to our homes would be - will obviously be a huge relief."

Researchers from Virginia Tech recently shared with Orleans residents that 89 percent of the homes they surveyed in 2016 had corrosive water. That resulted in elevated levels of lead and copper in the drinking water in 20 percent of those homes.

To fix the problem, the town is investing $13 million to build a water line to Alexandria Bay. Bids for the work go out this month.

Part of that funding comes from state grants - and loans. Orleans supervisor Kevin Rarick says that's "a kick in the balls" to his residents because Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced last fall that New York will build a new welcome center to the Thousand Islands in Alexandria Bay.

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.