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Village Water Dept. Head: System Stuck in the '70's

Village to use MTBE settlement funds to pay for modernization.

Mineola's water system is in dire need of an upgrade according to water department head Frederick Booher. While the system "works well," Booher said at Wednesday's village board meeting, "it's basically a 1970's technology." The equipment in use is no longer made or serviced by any manufacturer. Transmission lines are also "incapable" of handling the data necessary to properly monitor the system.

"This sounds like we have the equivalent of the Long Island Rail Road switch panel in the Mineola water department," deputy mayor Lawrence Werther said.

The village's engineering firm of Dvirka & Bartilucci were recently asked to evaluate the existing water main control center - the central location of wells and pumps and on and off switches where tank levels are monitored.

Based upon engineer's reports, Booher recommended replacing the control center with modern equipment commonly known as SCADA - System Control And Data Acquisition - which would have programmable controllers at each monitored location and can both transmit and receive data. Actual signaling would take place over secure internet, fiber optic and radio.

"We'll have increased functions, capacity, increase our security and provide better efficiency," Booher said. "At some point we need to address upgrading this (system)."

While no cost estimate was made available at the meeting, the village has received approximately $800,000 through lengthy MTBE litigation, through which it intends to pay for the upgrades. Mineola had joined with several hundred other water producers to sue oil companies and oil distribution companies based upon their addition of methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) to gasoline products. "It was basically a lubricant to help the gasoline function more efficiently," village attorney John Spellman said. The additive turned out to be a significant polluter of water sources. There have been instances where the additive has been found in Mineola, though not in any of the water wells, Spellman assured. Mineola and other municipalities joined the suit which claimed there was a point where the oil producers knew or would have known that MTBE posed a risk to water sources. A settlement announced Wednesday night with several additional companies netted the village $13,084.81.

"We do now have the ability to begin looking at upgrades certain parts of our water system where it's necessary and provide the kinds of backup we need." Mayor Jack Martins said. "I think we've all seen recently what kinds of things, what can happen when we don't have the requisite backup."

The Mayor estimated the installation would take approximately 12 months. "We're going to have options of installing certain parts of it now and installing others over time or decide whether or not to install it all at once," he said.

Village engineers would first have to prepare a bid packet for the new equipment which would then be sent out to vendors.

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