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Chautauqua County confirms Forestville residents’ water concerns

FORESTVILLE – Two days after village residents complained to the Village Board about the odor and taste of their drinking water, the Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services issued a statement confirming an odor in the water.

“This odor is especially noticeable in the hot water and is suspected of being caused by a combination of inorganic iron and manganese and possibly from hydrogen sulfide,” the statement said.

Two new wells were drilled in 2009 in Forestville to replace the springs that had been used for about a century. Health department officials said that the springs could be influenced by surface water and were prone to contamination from bacteria including E. coli and other potentially harmful microbes.

The springs often did not provide enough water to meet the village’s demands. During dry summer months, water bans were enacted.

Several options were explored prior to the well project. Village leaders looked at extensive treatment for the springs and augmenting the supply with new wells near the springs or with a surface water reservoir.

They also explored the cost of connecting to the town of Hanover water supply and using Erie County Water Authority as a source. Replacing the springs with wells was the most efficient and least expensive option.

The village was able to secure funding from the state to replace the springs with wells and to replace 90 percent of the distribution system mains that were more than 125 years old. Both projects were completed in 2014 and took eight years of planning and engineering to accomplish.

“This was a monumental project for a small village to undertake and cost $5.7 million,” said Christine Schuyler, director of health for the county.

“A project like this is one that a village like Forestville will undertake maybe once in a century,” she added.

The two new wells were tested for all primary drinking water contaminants, which are those contaminants that pose a risk to human health, according to the department’s statement.

These include pesticides, herbicides, petroleum products, PCBs, metals, radioactive elements and others. They were also tested for secondary contaminants, which are those that do not pose a health risk but can cause aesthetic problems such as color, odor and staining. These include metals such as iron and manganese, sulfate, chloride and others.

Test results for all contaminants at that time and since have been within drinking water standards except for iron and manganese, which have been just below or just above the standard. In January 2015, in accordance with monthly requirements, the village submitted water samples from these two wells to the county for testing. Included with these samples was a raw sample of water that had not received chlorine treatment.

The report said that the raw water sample showed a coliform count of two and was unacceptable and no E. coli. The compliance samples from the treated wells showed no coliform and no E-coli.

A complete copy of the testing is available in the village clerk’s office.