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Carl Hyde Jr.

First the paperwork, then the footwork and eventually Water District 5

By Joanne Beck
bethany water tanker nov. 2023
2023 File Photo of a Bethany resident filling up his water tote due to severe drought and dry residential wells, a situation that hasn't changed as we head into 2024. 
Photo by Howard Owens

Declaring a State of Emergency hasn’t produced a miracle in terms of water for the dehydrated town of Bethany, Supervisor Carl Hyde Jr. says, but it has established the seriousness of what town residents are facing for their future needs.

“It lets the state and federal officials know the dire situation we are in, and when we file paperwork for Water District 5, that it is expedited,” Hyde said to The Batavian Thursday. “The DHES (Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services) is looking to figure out what else they can do to help out the residents. And when it comes time to review the paperwork, we have priority.”

As the declaration stated, there are 100 residential properties and two large farms without water due to empty wells. All of them are having to travel to fill water totes on a regular basis to meet their needs, including one farm that requires 60,000 gallons a day to sustain its operation. 

“That means having drivers and trucks, some are paying to have it hauled, and the fuel expense,” he said. “There’s a lot of money tied up in this.”

Lack of precipitation has taken the blame for the severe drought in the area, and with little rain and snow yet to come, wells have not recharged and “we still have people that are running out of water,” Hyde said.

There have been a few bright spots in this section of Bethany desert: a state water tanker was sent to the town for a month so that citizens could get their water totes filled at town hall; private donations generously supplied residents with several pallets of bottled drinking water; and a second attempt for a state grant to shore up funding for Water District 5 was approved at the end of 2023. 

Right now, it’s full steam ahead with the legalities for the water district, Hyde said. Since the original budget and related funding fell through due to COVID issues, a new budget and paperwork need to be drafted, and another public hearing will have to be scheduled, he said.

“The water district is still moving forward. We’re waiting to hear from the town’s attorney about the public hearing … that should be in the next two to three weeks. Because of the budget overrun, we have to take it back to the residents,” he said. “We have the full funding for the project, (the residents’) cost doesn’t go up, we have to make them aware of where we’re at in the process of doing the legal stuff.”

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. 

Water tanker being returned, Bethany residents have until Tuesday for fills

By Joanne Beck

Bethany town residents will be able to fill their water totes for the last time from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the town hall, Supervisor Carl Hyde Jr. says.

The water tanker on loan from the state Office of Emergency Management is being taken back next week, and the town has been given until Tuesday (Dec. 26) to use it, Hyde said.  

“We knew it was on loan. I asked for an extension and we didn’t get it. Everybody knew this might happen. We just need to figure out the next step. I’m not done thinking outside the box,” Hyde said Thursday morning. “We’ve got a lot of bottled drinking water for residents; that’s a good thing. We will continue with the bottled water program until all 24 pallets are handed out to those whose wells have gone gone dry.”

Even with the tanker, it has been a completely flawless operation, he said, given the cold temperatures. There have been several times that the water valve has been frozen and needed to be thawed out. As winter progresses, that would have continued to be a difficulty to contend with, he said.

“The weather’s a huge factor in where we’re going and what we’re able to do. Mother Nature is just being difficult; first she put us in this drought and then she brought all this cold weather,” he said.  The pump housing is aluminum. We can’t heat it up with a torch; aluminum does not like torches and heat, it could expand and crack.  We’ve had to pour warm water on it to thaw it out. It’s not easy.”

He commended the town board and community members for pulling together and working out solutions so far. 

“We are resilient in Bethany, and we will do what we have to, to come through this,” he said. “Everybody has done a great job to get us to this point.”

Having the 6,700 tanker from the state was a temporary fix that was appreciated, and more residents have water totes as a result of it, he said. For now, they will have to travel to Batavia, Pavilion or Stafford to meet their water supplies. He has not heard of any dry wells recharging to the point of being filled on their own, he said.

“We are talking, we are trying to figure something out,” Hyde said. “We did have the hall booked for Christmas parties and New Year’s Eve parties, and those were canceled.”

The volunteer fire company usually has several breakfast fundraisers the first part of the year, and those too have been canceled without water, he said. 

“We don’t know when the water is coming back,” he said. “It really upsets the apple cart. Unfortunately, I have to be the bearer of bad news.”

The good news has been that Bethany was awarded a $5 million grant for Water District 5.  

Environmental professor weighs in on Genesee County's 'most intense' drought conditions

By Joanne Beck
Stephen Shaw
Associate Professor Stephen Shaw
Photo from SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry website

With so much talk about global warming and climate change, that would seem to be the likely culprit for drought so extreme it has dried up dozens of wells in pockets of Genesee County.

However, Stephen Shaw, associate professor for environmental resources engineering at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, says it might be much more random than that.

Shaw has just completed a 20-year analysis and a report about dry wells across the entire northeast. He found that a drought in 2016 was “pretty intense,” especially across Western New York and Buffalo in particular. That didn’t match what these towns — the volume of households  — in Genesee County have experienced, he said. He echoed what locals have described as "the most intense drought" ever seen.

 “I haven't come across anything like that before. So it's definitely … it's not abnormal during dry periods to have some dry wells. But I've never seen anything where it's this many in one place,” Shaw said during an interview with The Batavian. “But I think it's just this really unusual, spatially isolated dry period. I've never seen anything like that in terms of looking at the maps and stuff. It's super dry in that area where it's happened. So it just seems like really unusual conditions, but probably nothing bigger going on. Just kind of bad luck, roll the dice for that area."

He’s been studying water, drought and well level patterns for the last two decades and noted the unusually low levels in certain areas of the county —- being experienced especially in the town of Bethany, with other areas of Pavilion and Pembroke also being affected. 

He referred to the U.S. Drought Monitor, and one spot that pops up just south of Batavia — “not a little dot, but sort of a small mark what we call spatially isolated,” he said. 

“So most of the rest of Western New York hasn't been nearly as dry as that one location. Which, in this issue, you know, when you look at that, it's like, well, it's just, it just seems like they really just had some bad luck in a way, because climate patterns, you know, are continental or maybe regional, you know, statewide,” he said. “But this is just like these really small pockets of really dry conditions. So it's really hard to pin that on climate change at a larger scale. And for anthropogenic climate change, the projections, especially for some of the East Coast and Northeast, are generally to be wetter conditions. The climate model projections would say that it's anticipated with climate change, that most likely the Northeast will be wetter, will have more rainfall.”

“The Northeast Regional Climate Center, which is based at Cornell, have these maps of precipitation deficits in the state. So you can look at this map and see the same way the drought monitor shows like this pretty spacious, spatially isolated, little spot where it's been dry, the rainfall map shows the same thing. So this is a drought that's really caused by, instead of high temperatures and higher evaporation, it's really been caused by lack of precipitation,” he said. 

So, can you attribute the lack of precipitation and resulting drought to anything?

“Not really, because it's so spatially isolated, like if it was a bigger region or, you know, the larger northeast region, but it's really just over part of the county or the town. It's really just such a small area that's dry. It's hard to say it's larger climate patterns, it just seems like kind of bad luck in terms of where rain didn't fall,” he said.

To attribute a drought to climate change, there would have to be more of a pattern established, he said, such as this happening three times every 50 years versus once every 50 years. And a climate change factor would also cover a large area, not just 20 square miles, for example, he said. 

As for a solution, it sounds like these residents will have to just wait for Mother Nature to come through, is that right?

“It should reset, it should start to refill. Sometimes through the fall, actually, that's really the driest time of the year, like through October, because you basically … have the tree leaves still in the trees. So there's still evaporation, there's not that much rainfall often. You don't really start to get a sort of replenishment of groundwater until, say, November, something like that. So maybe it's a little delayed this year,” he said. “But now, with the leaves definitely off the trees and then you don't have much evaporation. So pretty much any precipitation that falls is going to start to go to recharge. So they should start to see recharge here in the next few weeks to two months. But it can take a while as you've depleted the water, the water has been drawn down. And it takes a while to fill that backup. But there's no reason to think that it won't start to recharge, especially as we get some winter storms and wet weather.

“The drought in 2016, it actually reversed pretty quickly. Groundwater always is a little more delayed, but you know, you just get some change in storm weather patterns, and you go from not having much rain to having quite a bit in a short period of time,” he said. “I haven't looked at the forecast over there. But it sometimes doesn't take that long in terms of just to get two weeks of pretty rainy conditions and you're catching up pretty quick.”

That would be awesome news for Bethany Town Supervisor Carl Hyde Jr. and the dozens of town residents who have been scrambling for water due to dry wells the last few months and to others on the county’s west side, including Janet Seaver and at least 10 other households in Pembroke. All of those folks had been driving out of town to fill up containers on a regular basis so that their homes would have water for basic necessities. 

Only more recently, in the last couple of weeks, was Bethany able to better assist homeowners by filling totes from a large tanker stationed at town hall. The town caught the attention of the state Office of Emergency Management in Albany, and it sent a 6,700-gallon water tanker to the town for water fills. Once word began to spread about that option, the tanker was emptied in six hours, Hyde said. 

The town is now on its second tanker full of water, thanks to a refill from the county. Donations of bottled water from Casella Waste Systems, Tops Friendly Markets and Wegmans Food Markets have also allowed for drinking water distributions to those residents as well, he said.

“People have been coming for their rations. The hours are Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9 to 3,” he said Thursday. “The fill times are Tuesdays 5 to 7 p.m. and Thursdays 6 to 8 p.m. every week, that seems to be working for people. We still need people who need water to get on the list. Tuesday, we picked up four new people. Yesterday was the first day we had no calls.”

Town of Pembroke officials more recently began to offer filling containers with water for town residents, and the need has been there. Janet Seaver had initially counted 10 people in addition to her and her husband having dry wells, and two more wells had gone dry since then, she said.

She and her husband have been stockpiling water in barrels to “get us hopefully through February,” she said. 

“We cannot afford to drill, as we are both retired and on a fixed income,” she said. “Those that have drilled have reported paying 12 to 15 thousand. We are praying for rain and/or snow to make the wells come back, and if not, we will be living like this until public water is put through.”

A request for comment from Town Supervisor Tom Schneider about the drought and future public water possibilities was not returned Friday afternoon. 

A quick look at the extended weather forecast shows a mixed bag of rain and wet snow for at least seven more days in December in a pattern that Shaw pointed to as the beginning of winter’s recharge for dry wells. 

For more information about drought levels, go HERE

For a live water data monitor, go HERE. Shaw said that the local water table, per a well monitor just south of Batavia, has risen by two feet as of Thursday. 

More donations roll into Bethany Town Hall Saturday, residents with dry wells are asked to get on distribution list

By Joanne Beck
Wegmans water donation
Submitted Photo

Water donations kept coming to the Town of Bethany on Saturday, as 18 pallets of bottled drinking water were delivered by Food Link from Wegmans Food Markets and four pallets of drinking water came from Tops Friendly Markets to the town hall. 

Town Supervisor Carl Hyde Jr. has said that the bottled water will get distributed to residents with dry wells who have signed up at the town hall. Bethany residents in need who have not yet called the town hall for help are asked to call 585-343-1399, Ext. 202 to leave your name, phone number and address to be put on the list.

Tops delivering water to Bethany
Submitted Photo


Santa visits Bethany Friday morning, in the form of a water donation, as officials wait for word on district funding

By Joanne Beck
Water donation in Bethany
A donation of four pallets of drinking water by Eric Santos, second from left, of Casella Waste Systems, arrives at Bethany Town Hall Friday morning for residents who have been struggling without water.
Submitted Photo

As town officials and residents work through a water shortage brought on by drought, all of them have said it has been the worst they have ever seen since living in Bethany, many of them for decades. Fill dates are being scheduled week by week from a tanker that was provided by the state Office of Emergency Management.

Santa came early again for a visit Friday morning, in the form of a donation of four pallets of bottled water all ready to be distributed to residents, Supervisor Carl Hyde Jr. said. Operations Manager Eric Santos of Casella Waste Systems had heard about Bethany's plight and showed up with his crew and the much-welcomed donation of water at town hall, Hyde said.

"The town of Bethany will start distributing these cases to the residents on the list whose wells have gone dry on Tuesday morning during normal office hours during the week and on Tuesday evening from 5 to 7 p.m. during tote fill time and Thursday evening from 6 to 8 p.m.," Hyde said. 

Bethany residents in need who have not yet called the town hall for help are asked to call 585-343-1399, Ext. 202 to leave your name, phone number and address to be put on the list for the town supervisor.

At least 100 residents -- though some people have claimed it's far more than that through social media postings -- have been without water due to their wells being dry, and they have had to transport water from other areas up to the tanker being delivered this past week. 

Hyde said that more dates will be scheduled soon, as the plan is to continue to fill residents’ totes until the tanker is empty, get that refilled by the county, and then repeat for as long as the town has the tanker.

Donation of water in Bethany
Submitted Photo

Bethany residents will have opportunity to fill water totes Saturday

By Joanne Beck

Bethany Town Supervisor Carl Hyde Jr. would like all town of Bethany residents to know that there will be a first come-first served opportunity for them to fill up their 250 and 500-gallon totes from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.

You are asked to only use the Bethany Center Road driveway of the Town Hall to line up. Volunteers will have more information about future fill dates and times, Hyde said.

The town received a temporary reprieve from its drought situation when a 6,700 tanker was sent from the New York State Office of Emergency Management early Wednesday morning to help out the dozens of residents whose wells have gone dry and are without water at their homes. 

Hyde said the plan is to fill totes with the water provided and then get the tanker refilled by Genesee County throughout the next 30 days, the time the town has been promised use of the tanker.

Although it was a question as to who would be paying for the water, The Batavian reached out to County Manager Matt Landers, and he said it would cost "only $20" per tanker, so that wasn't likely going to be an issue, no matter which municipality ends up paying for it. Genesee County will take care of the labor to transport the tanker to get refilled and back to Bethany, Landers said Thursday.

Hyde said he believes this is a "temporary bright spot."

"The drought could last until spring," he said Friday.

Bethany town residents with dry wells asked to contact town hall

By Press Release

Press Release:

Today we received a tanker of water from the NY State Office of Emergency Management to temporarily provide water to our residents experiencing dry wells.

For those residents affected, please call 585-343-1399, Ext. 202, and leave your full name, address and phone number. You will then be contacted with times to come to the town hall parking lot to fill your water totes.

Respectfully, Bethany Town Supervisor Carl Hyde Jr.


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