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Bethany issues State of Emergency for water shortage

By Joanne Beck

The Town of Bethany has declared a State of Emergency for water services during a year-end meeting on Thursday due to the town’s inability to provide water services to the affected parcels of approximately 100 residences and two dairy farms in the town.

The town’s Water District 5 had previously been approved by the town to be installed for service as of Jan. 25, 2021, however, the "COVID emergency" and resulting escalated costs caused the project to increase from $16 million to $20 million, and the town no longer had the authority, by way of bond resolution or the State Comptroller’s Office, to continue with the plan for District 5, town officials said in a related resolution signed during the meeting.

During the spring, summer, fall and winter of 2023, the southeastern portion of Genesee County, including the town of Bethany, experienced severe drought conditions and those residences and dairy farms lost all water services, with one dairy facility needing to haul 60,000 gallons of water per day to meet the needs of its livestock.

Based on the determination that the inability to provide water service to the affected parcels imperils the public health and safety, the Town Board of the town of Bethany, through Town Supervisor Carl Hyde Jr., has found it to be in the best interest of the town to declare a local State of Emergency due to the drought conditions pursuant to 24(1) of the New York State Executive Law, the town’s resolution states, and as a result of the severe drought, all eight farms with cattle are now hauling water either to supplement their well shortfalls or their well failures.

“This is not a sustainable practice nor expense that farms can endure for a prolonged period of time,” the resolution states.

“Due to lack of water in ponds, streams, etc., because of the severe drought conditions, the ability for the fire department to fight fires is extremely hampered. Water for fighting fires must now be trucked into Bethany at 3,500 gallons per truckload from eight to 10 miles away from surrounding towns, and now therefore it is hereby resolved that the town board of the town of Bethany hereby declares a State of Emergency due to the drought conditions present in Genesee County and the Town of Bethany."

This declaration shall be in full force and effect for a period of 30 days or util rescinded by Hyde, whichever occurs first, and he may issue additional declarations extending the local emergency for additional periods not to exceed 30 days until the emergency ceases or is abated.

Town Council members Jeffrey Fluker, Timothy Embt, Steven Wells and Diane Fowler signed the resolution. 

The town had been loaned a 6,700 gallon water tanker this past month from the state Office of Emergency Management, and had to return it earlier this week. Wells had not been recharged at that point, and Hyde said he would be thinking creatively about how to help town residents with their water shortages. 

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