Investigation reveals cause of Woodstock salt-poisoned water

 

Dangerous levels of road salt have essentially poisoned the water in several homes in Woodstock.

The state initially said it was coming from the salt storage shed nearby, but further investigation shows, the source is actually something more common for people all over the state.

The I-Team has been investigating the story for the past six months.

It's coming from something that we see on practically every road in the state during the winter.

The runoff water is the cause, so this would make you think this could affect even more people, but the state says, don't worry.

What's happening in Woodstock is bad, but it's unique.

Since the I-Team’s first investigation in November, the state worked months, doing geophysical analysis on the homes on Route 198 and it confirmed the source of the problem that's been plaguing these families in Woodstock is not this salt shed.

“The little bit of salt that we're putting down on the roadways, in this location, has been working its way into the wells that belong to these three properties,” said Kevin Nursick, Department of Transportation spokesperson.

The salty water has corroded nearly everything it's touched.

“My tank sprung a leak, so I had no choice but to replace my tank and it cost me 1,400 dollars that I don't have,” said Bonnie Regis, a homeowner.

The I-Team sat down with DOT officials for nearly two hours, getting to the bottom of this years-long problem.

They say these homeowners are seeing these nasty, debilitating results for a variety of reasons.

First, their well was located close to the road. And second, the runoff water aligned with the fractures in the well where the water would enter.

“It was at 30 feet below the ground and it was acting like a funnel because it was pointing and directed upwards to the shoulder of the roadway where the runoff to the road is essentially landing and that's getting piped directly down into the well,” Nursick said.

The DOT has seen these cases before, but in Woodstock, they discovered the previously reliable solutions just couldn't work here.

There's no public water supply to tap into, and a mechanism called a packer sleeve that would have kept the salty water from entering the well, wasn't the answer here either.

“The problem is that the rest of the well does not produce enough water to supply the household,” said Nursick.

The solution is, at a cost of $15,000 each, these homes are all getting new wells.

Instead of the wells being located in the front, near the roads, they'll now be placed deep in the backyards.

The state is confident they'll be up and running by June.

“I can live with the well, yes. But I need my plumbing to be rectified,” Regis said.

While neighbors can finally envision the end to their drawn-out nightmare, there are concerns.

While clean water should be coming from their new wells, their pipes are visibly damaged by the bad water, so they're not sure what will end up in their cups.

The DOT assures them that the pipes will not affect the new well water, and the well and the tap will be tested for three months.

“It's more of an aesthetics issue than a health issue,” said Adam Fox, a DOT engineer.

Then, there's the financial aspect.

Some have gone through hot water heaters on a nearly annual basis, while others had to replace pipes and washing machines.

Collectively neighbors spent tens of thousands of dollars in recurring maintenance over the years.

The state says residents will need to seek restitution through the claims commission, but admits, because this is a situation they've never faced before, sadly, residents should expect more red tape.

“It's the right thing to do and we know that, but we can't just cut a check and say, 'here's money for the hot water heater that you went through, here's the money for the new internal piping,” Nursick said.

If there are problems with the new wells, the state may try an expensive reverse osmosis system that would need to be maintained forever.

There's also a chance the state could end up buying these homes.

“I think my house is worth more and I’d be selling it for more if my house had a good well,” said Roy Morin, a neighbor affected.

Morin’s getting water supplied by the state and says he's in the same situation as his neighbors, but he's not getting the promise of a new well like they are.

The state says bottled water is not an admission of fault, but rather the first step in the investigation process, which is done on a case by case basis.

“If they just told us four or five months ago, we're still analyzing it. We're giving you bottled water while the analysis is taking place. It could be a new well,” Nursick said.

If you too have a well that may be shallow and one that's close to a road that sees a lot of salt, you may be thinking you're at risk.

If you're not seeing the devastation like we've seen in Woodstock, you should be ok. There are other sources of salt contamination.

The state says the number one contributor, is the private sector which aggressively throws down salt.

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