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Bethany drought creates support for Water District 5, dairy farm closure, future uncertainty

By Joanne Beck
bethany water district 5 meeting
Eric Weiss, a consultant with Clark Patterson Lee, shows the proposed Water District #5 in Bethany on a map to residents attending a public hearing at Bethany Town Hall on Wednesday.
Photo by Howard Owens.

All but a few of about 200 residents were on board with creating Water District #5 in the Town of Bethany, and after the Town Board approved a resolution for a revised water district Wednesday evening, those property owners have 30 days to challenge the move or let it ride into the next phase of development, Supervisor Carl Hyde Jr. says.

The new Water District 5 is without Sweetland Road and a portion of Fargo Road that connects Clapsaddle Road to Stafford's existing water on Fargo Road because "Monroe County Water Authority will not allow us to hook up and run the water into their water system coming in from the west side of Bethany from the town of Batavia, which is a blend of Monroe County and water from the water treatment plant in Batavia," Hyde said. 

“The town of Stafford is having a meeting on Monday,” he said, regarding the dozen homes removed from Bethany’s Water District 5. “They’re considered out-of-district users. They do not count for our water district.”

Wednesday’s meeting was to review all of those legal aspects and the important financial details of the plan — a $21,680,000 project funded with a $16 million 38-year low-interest loan (with annual debt service of $554,107), yearly payments from Genesee County and a $5 million state infrastructure improvement grant. 

All of those numbers boil down to an estimated unit cost (unit = property) of $1,220. That cost doesn’t follow the property owner, as it remains at that property address. 

What does this mean? Public water for 350 users, Hyde said. If none of them opposes or challenges this water district, then it goes on to the state Comptroller for review. After that, it would go to bid, “and then, hopefully, we should start digging in September,” Hyde said.

If someone opposes the plan, it will be brought to a vote, and 51 percent of the property owners must say yes in order for it to proceed. That opposition will also delay the process by 90 days.

“Now it’s just a waiting game; it’s all up to the residents. The board has done everything it can do,” he said. “I’m glad. The residents asked me to get the funding, and I got the funding. 

“I do have some residents who have gotten a little bit of water back in their well. They were all excited because they could use their toilet twice a day. But I do still have a lot of people whose wells have not come back yet,” he said, sharing the worst news to come out of the drought so far. “One farm is no longer in the cattle business. Because the cost to haul water is not worth the price you pay for milk. He’ll be doing some crop farming but is retired from the cattle world. Dairy is Western New York’s largest commodity; when we start losing cattle farms, what else is there? The wells still aren’t recovered. After about 14 inches of snow, and it's gone, we've had no rain, and if we don't get snow, I am really afraid of what's going to happen this July and August.”

Hyde is especially worried about what to expect down the road once spring and then summer roll around again if winter continues to be this lackluster and rain still circumvents his town. The drought has been downgraded to moderate, which he thinks is “hooey.” And the long-range forecast in the Farmer's Almanac is "not good," he said, prompting him to make his own future plans.

“I’ve got residents still picking up water because they’ve got no water,” he said. “Hopefully, we can get the tanker back in the spring. Who’d have thought in the year 2024 in New York State that it’s a third-world country? Our homes may look a little better than theirs, but it’s a third-world country with no water.”

He’s counting on having made prior contacts with the state governor, Comptroller, and Office of Emergency Management, that there will be people to help out again later this year with a water tanker when possible. Emergency Management loaned a 6,700-gallon tanker to the town this past fall so that residents could fill their water totes for a month at Bethany Town Hall. 

Meanwhile, at least 350 property owners can cling to another water district’s formation by this fall, once and if all gets approved, for a completion by 2026.  That district would run down Townline Road north to Route 20 and be in the center of town. It has been a long time coming, with conception in 2017 and a USDA low-interest loan of $16.5 million. It was looking hopeful, and then COVID came along, and prices shot up for an escalated total project cost of $21.5 million.  The town was turned down on its first attempt at a state $5 million grant to make up the difference, but fortunately received better news this past December, and now has the funding.

Property owners would be responsible for the pipe service to their homes, at about $15 to $25 per linear foot, which engineer Eric Weiss of Clark Patterson Lee estimated to be about $500 total, depending on the size of the property and circumstances.  The cost of water would be about $6.48 per 1,000 gallons, for an estimated $388.80 per household. All of the debt service costs roll into the approximate yearly bill of $1,220 per property owner. 

During the meeting, a resident asked what would happen to all of the trees along her property. The answer covered trees, flowers, driveways and other similar items on properties, and that was “we’re going to avoid as much destruction as possible,” Weiss said. 

Contractors are given directions for how to navigate obstructions such as long tree roots. “They will excavate on either side and will push the pipe through it,” he said. As for other outdoor landscaping, “they will restore it to the way it was.”

A few folks didn’t like government-funded programs of any type, but by and large, the majority of attendees seemed in favor of proceeding with this water district. 

"The residents are happy that it's moving forward," Hyde said.

bethany water district 5 meeting
Bethany Town Supervisor Carl Hyde Jr.
Photo by Howard Owens.
bethany water district 5 meeting
Photo by Howard Owens.
bethany water district 5 meeting
Photo by Howard Owens.

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


Getting their fill: Few residents show to first-time call to fill water totes, more dates set

By Joanne Beck
bethany water tanker nov. 2023
Bethany Town Board member Timothy Embt helps out at the water tanker on Saturday at the town hall parking lot.
Photo by Howard Owens

Jerry Kujawski had no trouble with Saturday’s rule of first-come, first-served to fill up his 300-gallon water tote. In fact, he made a return trip to fill it up a second time to help out a neighbor, and he was only the third or fourth person who had been at Bethany Town Hall to do so for the two-hour fill-up period.

When it seemed as though there would have been dozens of people clamoring for a go at the pump connected to a tanker of water to shore up their dried-up wells, the parking lot was empty most of the time. 

Town Supervisor Carl Hyde Jr. had put out the notice that anyone with no water could get their totes filled between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday at the town hall, and he and members of the Bethany town board and fire department stood at the tanker ready and waiting.

Kujawski, a resident of Bethany for the last 28 years, had never seen a drought this bad, he said, though it’s been steadily getting drier the last three years or so. He had a 300-gallon tote on a trailer and dumped that into his well to be used for necessities in the household and, through reverse osmosis, drinking water.

He then returned to fill it again for a neighbor who didn’t have the means to transport a tote. 

“We've had just a little bit of a drought sometimes in the summertime, and then we wait about a week or two, but other than that, it's just the last three years have been the worst,” he said. “Since the end of July, I’ve been hauling water. I’ve been getting it at Stafford, at the highway department, it’s an 18-mile round trip, sometimes twice a week.”

By comparison, it’s only a couple of miles from his house to Town Hall, where he’ll be able to fill up for the next month while the town has possession of the tanker. New York State Office of Emergency Management drove it from the Albany area filled with 6,700 gallons of water and has loaned it to Bethany for 30 days. Genesee County personnel will transport it for refills, County Manager Matt Landers said Thursday.

“And I appreciate it, I don’t know what I’m gonna do in another month after this leaves, they’ll have to come up with another system, hopefully, for us,” Kujawski said. “This is the worst year that we’ve had, to haul all summer, probably into September or maybe when you get to July and somewhere in there in August … I never had to haul water this long, I’m gonna go towards Christmastime. So it’s kind of crazy.”

Hyde took the low turnout in stride, saying that he was “disappointed, but I’m not disappointed.” 

 “I have several residents who said they were going to come today and get water, they know we're going to be open 11 to one, they know we're doing this, those that show up and get water, get water and those that don't show up, they’re on their own. The town board is here making an honest effort to do something for the residents of Bethany. If they don't take advantage of it, there's nothing we can do about it,” he said. “We're gonna do it again Tuesday between 5 and 5:30 for two hours, and maybe Thursday or Friday, the same thing, we'll know more as we go. It all depends on how much we take out of the tank. Once we get the tank down to zero or close to it, I have to call the county. They're gracious enough to come and get the tanker, haul it into Batavia, fill it and then bring it back. So it all depends on how many show up. Or how many don’t. So when it's empty, it's empty. There's nothing I can do about it for two or three days.”

He has set two more days for fills: 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday and 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday.

Town Board member Diane Fowler is one of the lucky ones with water, but she understands what so many are going through, she said.

“The situation around us is really horrendous for people that have to live without water. And even the people that have water, it may not be drinkable, you know, or it's just eating up their pipes, their appliances, and different things like that. So, to get public water here, this is the biggest water district that we're trying to put in, District Five, and to get this water in will give the majority of Bethany public water, which will make such a difference to improve their lives,” she said. “And I mean, that's what we want to do. We want to make it healthy for people to live here. And people want to come here, that's the next thing. Some people may like the idea of being in a rural community and love the idea of Bethany, because it's what, seven miles to Batavia, seven miles to Le Roy, seven miles to Warsaw. And it's a great place. But when you hear these stories about not having water, then it keeps people away. “

The town applied for a state Water Infrastructure Improvement Assistance grant once and was denied. Another application has been submitted, and town officials are waiting to hear about that, hopefully by the end of the year, Hyde said. The grant would supplement another grant of $16.5 million already obtained to install District Five, which is geographically central to Bethany.

The other option would be to obtain a low-interest loan for the $5 million needed to complete the project, which would be paid for by district residents. 

Meanwhile, town residents have been driving several miles roundtrip to fill totes with water. Firefighter Don Frank thought that perhaps residents hadn’t heard about the tanker and that it would take time for word to get around. 

“We’re going to hit every household with a flyer,” he said. “This is just the beginning of what has to happen. This is going to be a big project.”

Another consideration is that not all residents have a 250- or 500-gallon tote handy, the trailer necessary to haul it behind their vehicle, he said, and the means to empty it into a well. Water is 8.34 pounds per gallon, so a filled 250-gallon tote weighs 2,087 pounds.  

Jeff Fluker, a board member and chief of Bethany Volunteer Fire Department, said there’s a whole other issue that’s at stake with the ongoing drought situation: the potential for not having enough water to fight fires.

“There's a big, big water shortage. So in order to get water, the ponds have now dried up. The ponds are very low, there's hardly anything in the ponds at all,” Fluker said. “So now we’ve got to drive farther away to a hydrant across town to get water from there. Or if there's a creek, a spot in the creek where we can get something in there, maybe, but other than that, it's gonna be a tough goal.” 

Fluker hopes that someone — perhaps Genesee County legislators — will have a plan to help out these areas of highest dehydration. Otherwise, there may come that moment of reality when flames are blazing, and the hose is dry.

“So that’s something that we need to get moving on, yesterday. I don’t know if anybody realizes what it’s like not to have water. I mean, they think they don’t have water for their homes. But what if something happened, a fire comes along, does anybody think about that?” he said. “What’s going to happen there? That’s even worse yet. Now you’re going to be homeless, just because we didn’t have water that probably could have been fixed awhile ago.”

He said that there are discussions happening, but it’s hard to get water with farther drives and “a long, drawn-out process trying to get something done in a short period of time.”

“And it’s, you know, it’s an uphill battle,” he said. “Even in the middle of the winter, you can cut a hole in a pond and get your water out that way. You can’t even do that. You don’t even have water to cut out to get.”

Town Board member Tim Embt feels “very fortunate” that he has water and a water system installed at his home, he said, but also understands that “everybody else here has been fighting this for years and years.”

“I mean, we arguably should have had municipal water here 30 years ago, through the county, but that never happened. So this is where we are today. All we can do in the short term is help people out as best we can and hopefully get the grants from the  State to actually go through with the project as planned without having to bump their taxes up to a reasonable level,” he said. “Because that's the only thing that really concerns me is, I know we have a lot of retirees on fixed incomes in the town here, and that's a lot of money on top of what they're already paying. I understand you’ve gotta have water, I certainly understand that. But unfortunately, in this world, nothing is free.”

All of them said that they will most likely be there for water fills a few times a week, including Saturdays, for the next month. Hyde will issue public notices of future times and dates on The Batavian. 

bethany water tanker nov. 2023
Bethany Town Supervisor Carl Hyde Jr. explains a map of the Bethany water districts and how an acquifier runs all the way around the town property but not on it. 
Photo by Howard Owens
bethany water tanker nov. 2023
Bethany resident Jerry Kujawski fills up his tote with water Saturday morning at Bethany Town Hall.
Photo by Howard Owens
bethany water tanker nov. 2023
Bethany firefighter Don Frank helps out with the water-filling process Saturday.
Photo by Howard Owens
bethany water tanker nov. 2023
Photo by Howard Owens

Water shortage means no spray parks in 90-degree heat

By Joanne Beck
Spray park closed at Austin
Batavia's spray park in Austin Park has been closed due to water supply issues in the city and Genesee County, and soaring temperatures. Its county cousin in Le Roy has also been put on temporary hold.
Photo by Howard Owens.

Just as temperatures peaked near 90 degrees Thursday afternoon, Genesee County officials shared the disheartening news for folks that had pulled on a pair of shorts intending to cool off at the nearest spray park.

Count Shelly Fox, Jennifer Benkleman and Connor among them.

"I'm really disappointed," Fox said as the trio sat near the base of a drying spray park with a hot beating sun in Austin Park Thursday. "We can't afford air conditioning, and this was going to be our summer outlet to come cool off."

Due to a combination of hot weather and the failure of a pump controller at the city’s wellfield, the county called for a mandatory water restriction until 10 p.m. Thursday night. 

County Manager Matt Landers asked that Le Roy and Batavia officials each close their respective spray parks, in addition to issuing a laundry list of reminders for residents to curb their water usage.

Landers said that he is “hoping the demand subsides tomorrow with the weather cooling a little, plus repairs at the plant” will keep the splash pad closures temporary.

“However, we are monitoring closely and will send out an alert tomorrow again if necessary,”  he said.

He knew that Le Roy’s facility was closed and referred The Batavian to city management to confirm that the same decision was made to close the spray park at Austin Park. 

Yes, it was, City Manager Rachael Tabelski said. 

"The city spray park is closed currently while we try to recover water in the city's tanks. The pump for well C is down, and we are unable to draw enough water from the aquifer to keep up with the demand. City of Batavia and Genesee County have been in constant communication throughout today, looking at ways to preserve water and get the pump back online as soon as possible," she said. "We appreciate everyone understanding the water restrictions that the county has put in place and hope residents and businesses can follow them until we can get well back up and running."

In a press release sent out Thursday afternoon, Assistant County Manager Tammi Ferringer said that the current water demand is exceeding the infrastructure’s capability to produce clean water and that restrictions are necessary to ensure that the limited public water supply is “distributed equitably among all residents and essential services.”

“The cooperation of all residents, businesses and institutions is vital,” she said.

The following restrictions are effective immediately:

  • Outdoor watering is strictly prohibited. Outdoor watering includes lawns, gardens, splash pads, car washing and other non-essential water uses.
  • Do not fill swimming pools. Turn off decorative fountains or any other water-consuming recreational purposes.
  • Shortened Showers: Limit showers to a maximum of five minutes. Turn off the tap while lathering or brushing your teeth.
  • Wait to use dishwashers and washing machines.

Help raise awareness: Spread the word about the water restrictions to friends, neighbors, and community members to ensure widespread compliance. These restrictions may cause inconvenience, but they are crucial to effectively managing the current water shortage.

Dry spray park in Batavia
Photo by Howard Owens.

Batavia power plant gets green light for water withdrawal access despite municipal appeals

By Joanne Beck


Despite the letters of appeal with several reasons why city, town, and county officials did not want a company tapping into Batavia’s Well D, the Department of Environmental Conservation has ruled otherwise.

After a more than four-month review process of paperwork and supporting documentation from the applicant, Seneca Power Partners, and from city, town and county management and legal sources, the DEC has opted to grant Seneca a permit to “add Well D at the Batavia Well Field as a new permanent source of water supply.”

The permit has been granted for five years, with the option for Seneca Power Partners to reapply when that time is up.

“We have the same concerns we had when we issued the letters of concern (in July),” City Manager Rachael Tabelski said. “We outlined our concerns to the DEC, and we will meet with DPW and our legal counsel to determine the next steps.”

Tabelski wasn't quite certain how the DEC arrived at its decision, given some confusing supporting information. 

Environmental Analyst Guillermo Saar sent the municipalities and Brian Gregson of SPP a letter on Nov. 18 regarding the decision and reasons for the approval (PDF). In short, the permit authorizes the withdrawal of up to 698,400 gallons per day, or a total of  26 million gallons per year of water for the purpose of system maintenance, boiler make-up water, and non-contact cooling to support the generation of electric power in accordance with the terms and conditions of this permit. Water is to be withdrawn from a new groundwater supply, Well D, located at the Batavia Power Plant.

The longer version cites each reason stated by town, city and county officials, and DEC’s response to each. An example of DEC’s reasons includes a dispute about how much of an impact this additional water draw would negatively affect the county.

The opposing sides cited a significantly lower season average trend that “continues to exacerbate the overuse of the aquifer,” versus DEC’s determination that groundwater level data over the period from October 2007 through July 2022 “do not show that the drought experienced from 2015 to 2017 is indicative of a long-term declining trend in aquifer storage, but rather, a discrete event around which water levels recovered to statistically normal conditions.”

Or, with the Town of Batavia’s request to consider the “collateral environmental impacts” of this extra water taken for the company’s production needs, DEC reviewed statistics and prior water levels and found that the highest yearly draw for two decades, up to 2021, was 22 million gallons -- four million gallons less than what DEC has allowed.

A projected pumping rate of 700 gallons per minute, which is the equivalent of 1.08 million gallons per day, “would not adversely impact the Tonawanda Creek Primary Aquifer,” Saar said.

In the city’s letter of appeal, attorney George Van Nest argued that the DEC must determine that the proposed water withdrawal takes proper consideration of other sources of water supply that may become available.

First, that option was not listed by Seneca in the November 2021 Engineer’s Report included with the new Water Withdrawal permit application, Saar said. And engineers deemed the potential re-use of discharge water unfeasible “because the O-At-Ka discharge water is too hot for the Batavia Power plant’s cooling use.”

Overall, it was not the answer municipal leaders were hoping for.

“Genesee County was certainly disappointed by the DEC permitting Seneca Power a permit to draw water from Well D,” County Manager Matt Landers said. “The County and City will continue to monitor the water levels in the aquifer with the hope this additional draw doesn’t have a material impact on the City Water Plant’s ability to draw water during peak demand days in the summer.”

Water concerns have been on the rise, as the county has continued to see an uptick in demand, and drier summer weather, coupled with the need for updated aquifer systems that are part of an ongoing three-phase water project.  

"The county will continue to observe the use/access of the water,” Legislative Chairwoman Rochelle Stein said. “Our concerns will be noted to our state elected officials too. We rely on the ground water for a portion of our water supply.”

County Highway Superintendent and engineer Tim Hens has become the Paul Revere of water each summer, asking residents to temper their usage and warning that one day a serious drought could arrive.

He wasn’t too worried to hear the news of Seneca’s permit, at least not yet.

“There’s not a whole lot we can do at this point, it’s just going to be a wait-and-see. In most cases it shouldn’t be an issue for us unless we’re in periods of extended drought and groundwater has dropped precipitously,” Hens said. “We did do testing to show that their well could operate alongside of ours, and know we can handle short durations from both sources.”

However, it’s the long-term impacts on groundwater that have to be monitored, he said. And no one really knows for sure if and how much that may become a problem in the future.

At the beginning of July, City and Town of Batavia and Genesee County officials had joined forces to oppose the request for water that they believed could potentially affect the flow for area residents.

The three municipalities called upon environmental analyst Guillermo Saar of the state Department of Conservation to consider the burden that a request to draw 715,600 gallons a day would put on Batavia and Genesee County if granted.

Seneca Power Partners, a company at 163 Cedar St., Batavia, made the request through a permit application to DEC’s Division of Environmental Permits. The municipalities' response was swift.

“The major users of the Well Field (Genesee County, Town of Batavia, and City of Batavia) oppose this application and seek to help Seneca Power Partners find an alternative means to access untreated water for their operations. The aquifer directly feeds the Batavia Water Treatment Plant (owned by Genesee County, and operated by the City of Batavia) as a major source of drinking water,” the municipalities stated. “While the Tonawanda Creek also contributes as a source of drinking water, the quality and turbidity of the Creek make it a much less desirable source. Any excess extraction of water from the aquifer will force the Batavia Water Treatment Plant to rely more heavily on the Creek, and that will, in turn, increase the cost of municipal water treatment and decrease sustainability.”

In its application, a 662-page document stating its case with several supporting documents, Seneca Power Partners said that the use of water is “an integral part of the energy production process and is proportional to production.” More water is needed to produce more electricity. A simplified route the water takes looks something like this:

Water + heated by natural gas = steam = spins a turbine = goes into a generator = energy converted to electricity. The steam often evaporates and cannot be collected after the process, applicant John Trendowski, on behalf of the company, stated.

Prior coverage:

File photo of Seneca Power Partners' Batavia-based power plant on Cedar Street, by Howard Owens.

A fluid issue pits Batavia company against city, town and county

By Joanne Beck


Just as the deadline for public comments was coming to a close Thursday, local municipalities were giving their reasons for opposing a request for what they believe is an excessive amount of water from City Well D.

The Department of Environmental Conservation is at the center of the request from Seneca Power Partners and opposing sides of the city and town of Batavia and Genesee County. DEC Communications spokeswoman Andrea Pedrick told The Batavian Thursday that “the public comment period ends today. DEC’s next step is to evaluate the application and any comments received to determine next steps.”

“The letter of opposition will be reviewed the same as any other public comments sent to DEC regarding this application,” Pedrick said. “It would be speculative to speak ahead of this review process.”

Seneca Power Partners surprised the municipality leaders with the permit request to draw 715,600 gallons of water per day from the city’s well for the company’s Batavia Power Plant at 163 Cedar St., Batavia. Such extraction of water daily could greatly affect the water supply for local citizens, the opposing letters stated in much more elaborated terms. (See Batavia company seeks permit for water, faces opposition)

The opposition ...
Batavia Town Supervisor Greg Post agrees with the reasons cited by city and Genesee County officials for opposing the application. In addition to letters sent by the other two municipalities, Post also sent a letter with additional ramifications if the request is granted.

One topic that has not been considered in the application or related reports is “the collateral environmental impacts,” Post said.

He has witnessed how excess demands on the aquifer downstream, primarily east and north of the city’s wellfield, he said. DeWitt Park, Seven Springs Country Club, Rochester Zen Center, Retreat at Chapin Mill, Horseshoe Lake, and Genesee County Fish and Game Protective Association (at Godfrey’s Pond) all depend on the water supply from this aquifer to maintain wetlands, ponds, lakes, and headwaters of Bigelow Creek “in the same manner consistent with the past several centuries," he said.

Post disagrees with SPP's environmental assessment that there are “no known significant individual or cumulative adverse environmental impacts” from the large withdrawal of water for Batavia Power Plant each day. Reports used as supporting documentation for SPP’s request were based mostly during low usage of the aquifer than more current times would show, Post said.

“Our concern is that any further demands on the aquifer that sustains this region’s people, industries, commerce, agriculture, and the ecological system should be looked at in more depth than the current assembled application,” Post said. “I would strongly ask that all parties demand the time to more thoroughly investigate the consequences of this permit issue.”

Genesee County is still weighing its options for how and if to respond if DEC grants the request, County Manager Matt Landers said. He wasn’t certain whether public hearings would be a future option, and the county is “handling the situation directly with DEC” right now while keeping the public informed through press releases of its correspondence with the agency, he said. To his understanding, “the permitting decision is solely in the hands of the DEC.”

“We obviously hope our letter speaks for itself to the DEC and they deny the application for the permit,” he said. “We are hopeful that an additional strain on one of the main sources of water in Genesee County is not put in place. Putting additional strain on the County’s ability to deliver safe, clean and reliable water to the residents of Genesee County is certainly not in our best interest.”

County Legislature Chairwoman Rochelle Stein said the county would like to “encourage NYS DEC to consider our comments of opposition to the request.”

“We will work in cooperation with our municipal partners as the review process evolves,” she said.

In response to The Batavian’s request for a worst-case scenario if the request is approved, Stein said that could be a “possible reduction of available raw water … for our residents and further water restriction possibilities.”

The applicant ...
In its application, a 662-page document stating its case with several supporting documents, Seneca Power Partners said that the use of water is “an integral part of the energy production process and is proportional to production.” More water is needed to produce more electricity. A simplified route the water takes looks something like this:

Water + heated by natural gas = steam = spins a turbine = goes into a generator = energy converted to electricity

The steam often evaporates and cannot be collected after the process, applicant John Trendowski, on behalf of the company, stated. Batavia  Power Plant tries to minimize its water usage and repairs any leaks within the system in a timely manner. Any wastewater generated will continue to be discharged to the city of Batavia sanitary sewer, treated by the publicly owned wastewater treatment plant for eventual discharge to Tonawanda Creek, Trendowski said.

As production increases, the need for additional water will also increase as there will be more evaporative losses. The facility will track water intake from the well and the city, as well as water discharged to the city of Batavia wastewater treatment plant, he said.

“Although after-efficiency processes may reduce water usage slightly, energy production is a water-intensive process. This project was selected from evaluated alternatives because Batavia Power Plant has struggled economically in the energy market over the last several years. By using the well located on the property on Cedar Street, the Batavia Power Plant can limit its intake water from the city of Batavia,” the application states. “The generation of electricity requires significant amounts of water for cooling purposes, which is proportional to energy production. By reducing the amount of potable water required from the city, the facility can alleviate some of these expenses.”


The water withdrawal by the city to supply water to Batavia Power Plant has occurred since 1996, and based on a hydrogeologic report for Batavia wellfield, “withdrawing water directly from Well D should not have an effect on the water supply for municipalities or industrial sources in the area,” the permit application states.

The application points to major tributary watersheds that connect to Niagara River and Lake Erie, including Tonawanda Creek, which is 1,538 river miles. The creek itself is not the best source of consumable water due to its high turbidity and need for treatment, city officials said in their letter of opposition.

In the letter accompanying SPP’s permit application, Brian Gregson, development manager of Seneca Power Partners, and John Trendowski, senior principal with C&S Engineers, Inc., are the primary representatives for the request.

Not familiar with Seneca Power Partners has seemingly operated under the public radar, with no company signage to indicate it’s even there (on Cedar Street near O-AT-KA), sparse information online, and few, if any, public mentions.

The permit application is now in the hands of the DEC for a final decision.



Top photo: National Grid transmission lines near the power plant; the plant on Cedar Street in Batavia; an aerial view provided within the application; power lines running from the National Grid lines to the power plant. Photos by Howard Owens.

Batavia company seeks permit for water, faces opposition

By Joanne Beck

City and Town of Batavia and Genesee County officials have joined forces to oppose a request for water that could potentially affect the flow for area residents.

The three municipalities called upon environmental analyst Guillermo Saar of the state Department of Conservation to consider the burden a request --  to draw 715,600 gallons a day — would put on Batavia and Genesee County if granted. Seneca Power Partners, a company at 163 Cedar St., Batavia, with an unpaid debt of more than $1.5 million in back taxes, made the request through a permit application to DEC’s Division of Environmental Permits.

“The major users of the Well Field (Genesee County, Town of Batavia, and City of Batavia) oppose this application and seek to help Seneca Power Partners find an alternative means to access untreated water for their operations. The aquifer directly feeds the Batavia Water Treatment Plant (owned by Genesee County, and operated by the City of Batavia) as a major source of drinking water,” the letter stated. “While the Tonawanda Creek also contributes as a source of drinking water, the quality and turbidity of the Creek make it a much less desirable source. Any excess extraction of water from the aquifer will force the Batavia Water Treatment Plant to rely more heavily on the Creek, and that will, in turn, increase the cost of municipal water treatment and decrease sustainability.”

City Manager Rachael Tabelski was not given any advance warning about the request from Seneca Power Partners, she said.

“This application to tap into the aquifer was a surprise, and there was no previous conversation with the City about utilizing Well D,” she said to The Batavian Wednesday evening. “As the letter, you received stated, the aquifer is a protected natural resource that provides water to many residents and businesses and needs to be scrutinized at the highest levels for the best outcome for all parties.”

According to a letter sent by the three municipalities, the amount requested, 715,600 gallons per day is 75 times more water usage than the current average of 9,513 GPD. This will “burden the aquifer's ability to supply the Batavia Water Treatment Plant,” the letter states.

“The aquifer has seen historic low levels of source water in the last decade, a pattern that has not reversed itself,” it states.

Other supporting reasons for opposition is that Genesee County has issued water conservation notices to residents two years in a row, in June 2021 and again in July of this year. The notices warned that “the water level in the aquifer that feeds the City of Batavia Water Treatment Plant is approaching historic lows,” and “the deeper the water is below ground level the more inefficient the well pumps are..” It was the third consecutive year the county asked residents for a voluntary water restriction.

The City of Batavia Water Treatment Plant provides nearly 50 percent of the county's water needs. . Without an adequate source to supply the residential, agriculture, commercial and industrial users, they face the potential for water shortages, inadequate flows for fire suppression, and a risk of hydrological issues, the letter states. 

“In an emergency, if the county were to bring in water from other outside sources there would be an unknown hydrologic mix that could severely impact residents that have lead and galvanized pipes,” it states. “This could lead to a serious social injustice for the most economically disadvantaged citizens.” 

In the letter, it states that while the applicant claims that “they are operating in a socially responsible manner, their past activities indicate otherwise.” The company faced termination notices for water service in 2020 and 2021 for failure to pay its water bills, and is currently on the path to foreclosure of its plant and pipeline for failure to pay real property taxes since 2017. As of June 15 of this year, that tab is now at $1,528,402.32.

“How can we trust a company who blatantly ignores its water and tax bills with the responsibility to draw water from a protected aquifer?” the municipality leaders asked.

A final consideration is that Seneca Power Partners “has failed to consider other sources of water that would be more resilient and responsible." For example, O-AT-KA Milk Products, less than 100 yards away from the property line, discharges 1.0 mm gallons/day of non-contact water through its permit discharge and is “willing to entertain a discussion about rerouting a portion of this water to Seneca Power Partners.” As this is non-contact cooling water, it might be a suitable and more sustainable option to pursue, the letter stated.

“Therefore, and in light of the objections outlined above, we oppose the permit application to the DEC and ask that the DEC act in a manner to protect the aquifer and Batavia Water Treatment Plant,” it stated. 

The letter, signed by Tabelski, Genesee County Manager Matt Landers and Batavia Town Supervisor Gregory Post, was complemented by another letter sent by Genesee County Legislature and signed by Chairwoman Rochelle Stein.

Genesee County leaders are opposing the request due to a troubling trend of a declining water table; the misrepresentation by SPP of how the request would actually affect the city, town and county residents; and a request that is significantly higher than the historic daily average water use by SPP.

“Due to these three reasons listed above, Genesee County is strongly opposed to Seneca Power Partners’ direct well water withdrawal permit application,” Stein said. “We hope NYSDEC staff understands our position and puts the needs of an entire county above the interests of a private company.”

Press releases about this matter were sent out by the city and county around 4:15 p.m. and 5 p.m. Wednesday, respectively. Questions emailed to Landers and Stein were not answered Wednesday evening. Tabelski said that she would discuss some of the questions with the city attorney and also referred the matter to DEC. Emailed questions to DEC Regional 8 Director Tim Walsh were not answered as of Wednesday night.

See related article about the permit process for DEC.

County asks residents to conserve water during hot summer days

By Press Release
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Press release:

With the recent drier than normal weather and forecasted above-average temperatures, Genesee County officials are once again asking residents to conserve water. 

“Work on various water infrastructure projects continues in the effort to increase the water supply, but this process is complex and will take several years to complete,” said Genesee County Highway Superintendent and County Engineer Tim Hens.  “This work is to ensure that Genesee County has an adequate supply of water to meet projected demands for the next 100 years.”

County officials stressed it has plenty of water throughout the year on average days, but without conservation efforts, keeping up with demands during hot dry stretches is difficult. The County is again asking everyone to pitch in on water conservation efforts through the peak of summer heat.

“It’s important that we have the cooperation of residents in avoiding watering lawns, washing cars and filling pools on hot days. Water gardens at night or early morning when evaporation is less,” Hens continued. “We have contingency plans in place for emergency water supply and pumping, but if everyone works together to do their small part at conservation efforts we can avoid water supply issues.” 

County to receive funding for three water projects

By Press Release

Press release:

Genesee County officials announced that approximately $3.5 million in funding has been secured for three water projects across the county.

Genesee County received an inter-municipal grant for $1.213 million from the New York State Environmental Facilities Fund for remaining pump station upgrades related to the county’s Phase 2 Water Project.  The pump stations are located on North Road in Le Roy and in Scottsville, Riga, and on Morgan Road in Chili.  This funding completes Phase 2 construction and will increase water supply to Genesee County by 2 million gallons per day (MGD).

The City of Batavia received approximately $2.2 million in funding through the New York State Water Infrastructure Improvement Act (WIIA) also administered by the Environmental Facilities Fund. 

The funding will be used for upgrades at the City of Batavia Water Treatment Plant and is a joint project between the City of Batavia and Genesee County to help restore lost efficiency at the plant, which is needed to meet peak demands.

The Town of Alexander also received a grant of $132,000 to aid the construction of Water District #6.

Genesee County continues to seek federal and state funding to assist in the implementation of Phase 3 of the Countywide Water Program. Under the Master Plan developed for water, the Phase 3 project further increases regional supply by another 3.1 million gallons per day but, more importantly, replaces a threatened water supply. Phase 3 is currently estimated to cost $132 million.

“There is significant demand for water across the county among residents, the agricultural community, food processing and the advanced manufacturing sectors. Meeting that demand requires significant upgrades in infrastructure,” said Genesee County Highway Superintendent Tim Hens.  “We have a solid plan to help us meet the demand. Now we need the funding.”

'We can't manage it on our own.' Legislators ask Jacobs for countywide water assistance

By Mike Pettinella
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Genesee County legislators on Wednesday afternoon – in the clearest of terms – asked Congressman Chris Jacobs for his help in finding federal money to assist the municipality with its multimillion dollar Countywide Water Project.

Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein set the tone for the roundtable discussion at the Old County Courthouse by emphasizing that residents’ quality of life and the county’s economic development hinge upon the amount of water flowing into the City of Batavia and Genesee’s towns and villages.

The purpose of the meeting – it lasted about 50 minutes -- was to educate Jacobs on the details of the water project, which is nearing the end of Phase 2 of a planned four-phase initiative.

County Engineer Tim Hens said the cost of the project is staggering -- $20 million for Phase 1, $23 million for Phase 2 (which will bring in another 2.4 million gallons per day), $85 million for Phase 3 (another 6 million gallons per day and the elimination of the aging City water plant) and an estimated $50 to $60 million for Phase 4.

“We’re at a point now where we can’t manage it on our own,” said Stein, asking Jacobs and his staff to explore all options through the network of federal agencies.

County Manager Matt Landers said the county “is on the same trajectory with the same issues and the same concerns,” referring to having to impose water restrictions at peak summer times and delays in completing Phase 2 due to COVID-19.

He said the bulk of the water generated by Phase 2 is “largely spoken of for other developments, expected growth and other water districts (including the Town of Bethany) coming on line.”

“So, we’re going to be chasing our tail; we’re in the same position for the next five or six years until Phase 3 comes on board,” he said, adding that Phase 3 is at the design stage. “Phase 3 brings us extra water, but it really doesn’t put us in position for the next generation …”

Landers said the county has taken steps to attract funding – enlisting a lobbying firm, hiring grant writers and using its resources (such as $8 million of American Rescue Plan Act funding) – but is in need of outside help to avoid placing the burden on taxpayers.

He said that breaking Phase 3 into a couple dozen smaller projects, such as individual pump stations or towers at $2.5 million, for example, could be the best way to present it to funding entities such as the United States Department of Agriculture or the Environmental Protection Agency.

Hens said the county estimated, in 1998, a 40-year forecast of needing 10 million gallons per day, but it already has hit that amount. Now, they’re looking at 21.5 million gallons a day for Phase 3 and Phase 4.

“The growth of the water system has far exceeded our expectations for not only residential demand,” Hens said, but also for dairy farmers, who comprise the county’s largest industry. “Cows drink probably eight times what the average human consumes in a day, so the usage on farms is pretty high.”

He also said the water project has fostered the expansion of the county’s food processing industry, mentioning HP Hood (that uses a million gallons per day) and O-At-Ka Milk Products.

Stein, noting that the Tonawanda Creek is an “environmentally-threatened water source,” wondered out loud whether there is an environmental bill coming out where funding for public water could be allocated. She also asked if some sort of “social justice” funding was available in light of the amount of low- to moderate-income citizens in the city and county.

While Genesee County is proud of its dairy and food processing industry, Stein said it lost an opportunity to attract the Great Lakes cheese plant in Le Roy because of limited access to water.

“We don’t want to be in that situation forever,” she said. “… seeking those federal dollars is really important to us. Our conversation is meaningful … and you’re going to talk about that when you’re in Washington.”

Jacobs said he and his staff would “scour departments within Washington, D.C., to find good fits for opportunities for this very important project.”

He said that water and broadband (internet) are “common needs” throughout his Congressional district that he continues to advocate for. The Republican said that as a member of the House Agriculture Committee he is learning about the problems facing rural communities and “hopefully, we’ll be in the majority next year and I will be in a better position to advocate as well.”

Derek Judd, who serves as Jacobs’ legislative director, said by video that low cost, long-term financing for water infrastructure is in the works but advised legislators to be prepared for a long timeline when it comes to Congress-supported community project funding projects.

Landers said Jacobs “should be proud” of the fact that Genesee County has developed a regional water supply in conjunction with the Monroe and Erie county water authorities and (with Niagara County in the future at the WNY STAMP site in the Town of Alabama).

Both Stein and Landers pointed out the “partnership” the county has with the city, towns and villages, and hoped that Jacobs would communicate their message to his colleagues at the nation’s capital.

Town of Bethany announces funding for water district

By Press Release

Press release from Carl Hyde, Jr, Bethany Town Supervisor:

The NY State Comptroller has given his consent to the Bethany Water District # 5, which is a $ 16,680,000 project funded by USDA thru Rural Development. The Town of Bethany will proceed with David DiMatteo the Towns attorney and Clark - Patterson Lee the Towns engineering firm to move this project to reality.

Public Meeting Notice - Genesee County Water System Hookup Administrative Review Committee

By Legal Notices

Please note that the Genesee County Water System Hookup Administrative Review Committee will be meeting on Wednesday, October 20, 2021 at 9:00 AM in the Large Conference Room of County Building 2, 3837 West Main Street Rd., Batavia, NY 14020 to review three water hookup authorization requests in the Towns of LeRoy, Byron, and Elba. Agenda and meeting materials are available upon request from Erin Pence, Deputy Director of Planning at or (585) 815-7901.

Event Date and Time

Hot weekend coming, water conservation urged

By Howard B. Owens

Press release from Tim Hens, County Highway Superintendent:

Heading into the weekend, it looks like a few days of 90° weather are forecasted for our area.  It has been abnormally dry and this combo is exactly what causes water usage to spike. The County is continuing to urge all residents connected to the public water supply system to make small changes to conserve water usage.  Please avoid watering lawns, washing vehicles and any unnecessary water usage.  If you need to water a garden, please do so at night.  Small changes at the residential level add up quickly. 

USDA offers Town of Pembroke a bigger grant, lower interest rate to form fourth water district

By Howard B. Owens


The Town of Pembroke is wasting no time in accepting a grant and low-interest loan from USDA's Rural Development division because it is such a good deal.

"I’ve been doing this for many years," said Tom Carpenter, an engineer with Clark Patterson Lee. "This is the best funding package I’ve ever seen from Rural Development. We were requesting about a $2.3 million grant and I forget the interest rate when we were requesting this but it might have been 2 or just over 2 percent. They came back with a grant of $3.7 million and an interest rate of 1.25, that is the best I’ve ever seen."

The bigger grant and lower interest rate will save property owners in the proposed Water District #4 (see map above) about $90 a year from the original estimate.

At the town board's meeting last week, the board voted to accept the package from USDA and contract with Clark Patterson Lee for services associated with getting the water service designed and built.

Typically, there would be a public information meeting about the proposed district but due to COVID-19-restrictions, but Carpenter anticipates newsletters going to residents and business owners in the district along with survey cards to gauge interest in forming the district.

Both Carpenter and Supervisor Thomas Schneider Jr. said they believe there is widespread support for the formation of the district in the community.  

Carpenter said at a previous public meeting where he discussed the district, about 120 people turned out (before the pandemic) and only four or five people there opposed the district.

"You usually get people who are very, very for a district or very, very against it," Carpenter said.

There will be a public hearing on formation of the district at a future date.

Schneider said given the positive feedback he's received from residents, he believes the board will be able to approve the formation of the district with a permissive referendum, which would mean the district would move forward unless affected residents or property owners held a successful petition drive placing the proposal on a public ballot. In that case, voters would need to approve formation of the district.

Schneider said the annual cost of the district for a single, occupied dwelling would be $962 per year. The cost of debt for a residential property that is not developed would be $466 per year. A vacant lot would pay about half that amount. Agricultural properties are exempt from paying for debt service on a water district.

The total cost of the project would be $9,050,000, with $3,744,000 covered by a USDA grant, and the rest by a low-interest loan of $5,306,000.

"I can easily stand up at a public meeting and say there will never be a better funding package available for this project," Carpenter said.

The project would involve installing 109,000 linear feet of 6-, 8-, and 12-inch diameter water mains and providing for 302 water services.

Carpenter said the best-case scenario is the entire project is completed by the end of 2022.

Parts of Town of Batavia experiencing low-water pressure due to high demand

By Billie Owens

Public Notice

The Town of Batavia will be experiencing low-water pressures in the western and northwestern area of the Town.

Due to high water demands, the County is obtaining water from ECWA/MCWA Pembroke connection. This connection lowers pressures in the Town of Batavia in those areas.

This will continue until further notice. Customers can call (585) 356-4900 if you have further questions.

Photos: New water tower under construction in Elba

By Howard B. Owens


Construction is under way of a new 750,000-gallon water tank in Elba that will serve both the village and the town.

Town Supervisor Donna Hynes said planning for the project began in 2015. In 2016, the Town of Elba received a grant and low-interest loan from USDA Rural Development to fund the project in a single phase. The grant is for $3,854,000 and the loan was for $13,658,000.

Hynes said it then took a year to complete SEQRA and all the necessary permits. Project construction began in mid-2018.

The project also includes approximately 248,000 linear feet of 8-inch and 12-inch water mains serving approximately 500 water users.

Construction should be completed this summer, then painted, and in service by early fall.

Photos: Submitted by a reader last week.



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