It might not be fair to say that Genesee County is desperate for water, but when you slice it and dice it, Genesee County is desperate for water.
County officials -- understanding the impact that water has on the future of economic development -- are going all out in an effort to pump another 7.6 million gallons a day into the municipality.
On Monday afternoon, the Genesee County Legislature’s Public Service Committee recommended approval of four resolutions on measures designed to increase or enhance the water supply.
County Engineer/Highway Superintendent Tim Hens (photo at right) provided details about the resolutions as he looks forward to wrapping up Phase 2 of the Countywide Water Supply Program and embarking upon Phase 3, a $90 million project that would increase significantly the daily capacity of water.
All four resolutions likely will be on the agenda of the full legislature meeting on July 28 at the Old County Courthouse.
The four resolutions, with comments from Hens, are as follows:
-- A contract with the consulting firm of Clark Patterson Lee in the amount of $950,00 for a Basis of Design Report and Source Supply Change Studies for Phase 3.
“In Phase 2, which we started in the fall of 2019, at the outset we were kind of behind the 8-ball, so we rushed some things. We started working on the actual design documents for construction bidding somewhat concurrent with the Basis of Design, which is the document used for the Monroe County Water Authority to say exactly how they want things constructed,” Hens said.
“So, were doing a lot of things in parallel – the environmental work, the land acquisition – and, at the end of the day, even though we were trying to make things go faster, I think it just got more confusing for folks and it slowed down the review process quite a bit.
“This time, were not quite behind the 8-ball as we were with Phase 2 – we have a little bit of time, albeit not a lot, so we’re going to get the Basis of Design squared away with Monroe County so we know exactly how they want everything built, what types of pumps they want to use, what type of pipe material – things like that – and get that squared away before we actually put together construction documents for bidding.
“I think that will make the designs for the project move a little smoother and will make the timeline ultimately a little bit shorter.”
Hens said the Basis of Design outlines how the system will work: How the hydraulics between the Genesee County system and the Monroe County system mesh, and determines the required pump speeds and flow rates.
The $950,000 contract includes many “pieces and parts,” Hens said, adding that CPL will not be receiving all of that money (which is being expended from the County Water Fund).
“There are a lot of subcontracts for geotechnical exploration, contracts for land acquisitions and easements. Also, part of the contract is the Source Supply Change.
“With 7.6 million more gallons coming in through Phase 3, that’s enough to basically shut off the City of Batavia water plant. When we do that, the water chemistry from Monroe County is slightly different from the water chemistry in the City of Batavia.
So, if we’re going to replace the city water plant and use Monroe County water, we want to make sure the chemistry lines up and we don’t run into a Flint, Michigan-type of situation (high lead levels). There’s a fairly sizeable chunk of that $950,000 that is dedicated to doing the analysis on the water chemistry to make sure we don’t have that problem.”
-- Rejection of bids for construction of new chlorination stations for Phase 2.
Hens said that the county is at the midpoint of Phase 2, having completed water main work on Vallance Road and North Road in crossing the Thruway in Le Roy, water main work on Chestnut Ridge Road in Chili, new pump stations in Mumford and Churchville.
Several pump station upgrades are in the works in Le Roy and three locations in Monroe County, and another is being built on Golden Road in Chili. That construction is set to take place through the winter, with completion earmarked for next summer.
As far as new chlorination stations, Hens said the county solicited bids to contractors to build three small sheds spread out around the county that had little chlorination injection pumps in them to re-chlorinate the water once the chlorine dissipates.
“The bids we got back were ridiculous; they were probably three to four times more than we thought they were going to be,” he said, reporting that hopes of spending $200,000 for this project was going to be at least $600,000. “And we just don’t have the money to spend on these stations.”
So, Hens turned to Town of Batavia Engineer Steve Mountain, and they agreed that the town will install temporary, skid-mounted systems inside the bases of the water tanks. “That will fix the problem and a much cheaper cost,” he said. “The county will then reimburse the town for the expense.”
-- Rejection of bids for a disinfectant byproduct removal system within the Village of Oakfield water storage tank for Phase 2.
“So, THM (Trihalomethane) is a chemical that builds up in water over time as the chlorine dissipates and breaks down into other things. Typically, what you do is put a spray system into the storage tanks and it takes the chemical out of the water,” he said.
“Again, the bids for this were crazy expensive so we’re looking at doing a different method that's quite a bit cheaper, and we’re having conversations with the Village of Oakfield about that.”
-- A contract with the Carpi & Clay lobbying firm of Washington, D.C., for up to $60,000 to seek grant and other funding for Phase 3.
“There’s a lot of new money for infrastructure in Washington, D.C., right now; there’s a lot of money for water. With the cost of Phase 3, we want to get as much outside help as we can to get federal aid to support our projects, rather than putting it all on the backs of county residents,” he said.
The contract calls for the county to pay $7,000 per month to Carpi & Clay at least through the end of this year, with the stipulation that the firm provides detailed reports of its activities.
Hens said the original estimate for Phase 3 was $76 million but due to inflated construction costs, that figure likely will increase to $90 million or more.
The net result in water supply will be about 3.1 million gallons per day, he said, when considering that the 4.5 million gallons generated by the City of Batavia water plant will be removed from play.
“That still helps us considerably,” he advised.
HEAVY RAIN LIFTS GROUNDWATER LEVEL
Hens said that last weekend’s heavy rain has raised the groundwater levels up by about eight inches, a good sign for the aquifer heading into August.
“How the aquifer works is that you normally see your highest levels in March and early April,” he said. “Seasonally, as the snow melts and things start to dry out, the groundwater will drop in pretty much a straight line through the summer and into the fall. When you get into the November and December timeframe, sometime into early January, that drops stops and it starts climbing.
“We were on a path as of a week ago, the groundwater was dropping by a half-inch a day, pretty routinely. We were scheduled to drop by another six feet by December. We’re already pretty low; we probably would have been at record level lows by then.”
Hens said he sees the bump in the aquifer as just a temporary respite.
“I think we will continue to drop once we get through this wet period, but I don’t think our drop is going to be as deep as we thought it would be. The deeper the groundwater, the harder it is to pump,” he said.
“A lot of the spike in usage in the summer is related to people filling pools, washing their cars, watering their lawns and gardens – that’s where all the extra water usage comes from. We’ve seen that drop off substantially due to the amount of wet weather we’ve been having. That’s got us knocked back to wintertime water level usage.”
Hens reported that as of yesterday, per day water usage in the city was at 2.8 million gallons – down from the peak usage level of 4.3 million gallons, while Monroe County Water Authority usage dropped back from about 3 million gallons per day at the end of June to 2.2 million gallons per day.