Family sues town of Thurman for salt contamination in water
by Michael Goot, originally posted on July 13, 2016
THURMAN — The town is being sued by a family that lives next to Town Hall because they say their well has been contaminated by runoff from the town’s salt storage area.
Andrew and Bernadette Winter, who live at 317 Athol Road, have filed a lawsuit in state Supreme Court of Warren County, saying the salt contamination has made their water “unfit for human consumption” and caused their property to decrease in value. They are seeking compensation for damages.
The lawsuit stems from the town’s ongoing issue with its salt storage area, which was built in 1997 without proper permits. Salt has leached into water running off the town’s property and into and under the ground. A new shed was built with the help of volunteer labor in 2014.
Bernadette Winter said she has not been contacted by town officials about what they are doing to correct the problem.
“I was forced to file the lawsuit because I haven’t heard from them,” she said.
Town Supervisor Evelyn Wood said Tuesday that the town’s lawyers are reviewing the lawsuit. It also is being sent to Thurman’s insurance carrier.
Town officials are in the process of fixing the salt contamination problem. A concrete pad for the salt has been put in, and the next step is to install impenetrable asphalt barriers around the pad, according to Wood.
Wood hoped to obtain estimates on the cost of the project later this week. Thurman uses Warren County for most of its paving and is waiting for county officials to schedule a time to complete the job.
“We’re hoping to have it done in August,” she said.
Wood said the first step is to prevent any further contamination. The next step is cleanup. The town’s engineering firm has drafted a remediation plan that will go to the Department of Health for review and then the Department of Environmental Conservation.
Two new wells have been drilled on the town’s property, according to Wood. When the plans are approved, the town can begin providing water to the affected homes.
Town officials have had a number of meetings with the Department of Health to discuss issues such as whether the water needs chlorination and how to construct the wells, according to Wood.
As far as making homeowners whole for any damages caused by contamination, Wood said that will be handled on a case-by-case basis.
“Our primary objective is getting clean drinking water,” she said.
The town is buying Crystal Rock bottled water to provide to affected homeowners, according to Wood. It will continue to do that until the problem is resolved.
She said the plan is for all the necessary paperwork to be submitted to state officials in the next few weeks.
Winter said homeowners have not been contacted to find out if the current proposal is acceptable.
When informed of the town’s plans, she said it seems to be “too little, too late.”
Winter said she was told the salt contamination would take 200 years to dissipate. She said a concrete barrier should have been installed before the storage area was put there.