Phoenix Water Woes: Peter Scott Swamp, The Sand Ridge Aquifer and New Water

This is the third part of a three-part story about Phoenix’s water. -Ed.

PHOENIX, NY – The village’s water source, the Sand Ridge Aquifer, is a water bearing layer of permeable rock, sand and gravel, but Phoenix’s surface water problem lies at the aquifer base and in its proximity to Peter Scott Swamp.

Sand Ridge Aquifer
From the 1992 USGS, page 2, The Sand Ridge Aquifer runs from northern Palermo to The Oneida River.

The 12,0000 – 13,000 year old aquifer, a result of glacial recession and meltwater, according to geologists, is 15 miles long and stretches from the northern region of Palermo, through Pennellville to the southern end of Schroeppel, ending at the Oneida River.

According to the 1992 US Geological Survey, the water contained within the sand and gravel mass is derived solely from infiltration of rain and snow that falls directly on the aquifer.

This precipitation averages from 7.9 to 15.9 million gallons of water per day with surrounding wetlands as the principal discharge areas for the water flow.

The water flows underground toward lower areas where it can resurface in places like Peter Scott Swamp at the south west end of the zone, one of the largest adjacent wetlands.

“Other major discharge areas (include) … the village of Phoenix well field which pumps about 82.1 million gallons per year, and springs along the edge of the aquifer. The aquifer supplies water to about 7,000 people. Pumpage from the entire aquifer is estimated to be about 0.63 million gallons per day. The aquifer is capable of yielding water at a rate of several hundred gallons per minute to large-diameter (greater than 6-inch diameter) screened wells that are properly developed. The two municipal wells for the village of Phoenix can pump water at rates of 900 and 400 gallons per minute,” according to the geologists who prepared the 1992 report.

The USGS notes the village of Phoenix municipal water supply wells are located at the eastern edge of the swamp, about half way between Swamp Road and the aquifer’s ridge along county Route 10.

In their study, the USGS identified a source of potential water groundwater contamination at the village’s Foster Well #3, adjacent to Peter Scott Swamp.

USGS Conditions Report 1992
From the 1992 USGS Conditions Report, page 12. (Red box and arrows added for emphasis.)

“Well 349, in the southwestern part of the study area, has a 20-in.- diameter casing, a screen that extends from 40 to 64 ft, and the capability to produce 1.3 Mgal/d (900 gal/min) with a drawdown of 36 ft. Well 349 (locally known as Village of Phoenix Foster Well 3) was constructed in 1972 to a depth of 64 ft.”

“During pumping conditions, some water is induced from Peter Scott swamp to pumped Well 349. During nonpumping conditions, ground water discharges to Peter Scott swamp,” geologists stated.

It was noted in the report the same swamp water feed condition was present when the USGS tested Well 349 in 1972.

Forty years later, Phoenix residents, whether they knew it or not, still faced the same problem.

Miller Engineering’s Doug Miller, hired to advise Trustees on the options posed by the Oswego County Health Department to bring the village water supply into compliance with state clean water rules, told village leaders during the Oct. 21 meeting that the condition continues, new wells would suffer the same problem, and another water source was the most effective solution.

He advised that the Metropolitan Water Board has a transmission line that crosses through the village at County Route 12 and I-481, and prepared a plan using it as the most logical place to tie in.

Under that new plan the village would buy clean, safe Onondaga County Water Board water wholesale, and could resell the water to its residents and neighboring communities.

Preliminary cost estimates, factoring operation and maintenance, engineering and project management totaled $516,000 to tap into the Metropolitan Water Board line, the engineer reported.

Miller said his estimate included the purchase of 9 million gallons of treated water, acquisition of property, 260 hours of operator time, and electrical costs at 9 cents per kilo watt hour.

Projected annual operating costs of $185,000 included electrical costs, chemical costs, 1,800 hours per year for operator labor, 40 tons per year of sludge removal, and annual well field services.

In the proposal on the table, Trustees noted the plan included the cost of capping the well heads and closing both Foster Wells completely.

According to the violation issued in 2011, the engineer believes this plan will bring the village into compliance with the Surface Water Violation Rule, providing a safe public water supply.

Village officials and property owners will now have to turn their attention to the aged supply infrastructure and existing sediment in pipes and laterals throughout the village which are believed to be the cause of the visual discoloration.

Phoenix resident and businessman Mike Lattimore asked, once the water supply is corrected will it still be necessary for the village to flush the hydrants and lines every four months, as this seems to be a major source of the brown and discolored water?

“Some of those particulates that aren’t being filtered out, whether it’s iron, manganese or the MBA’s will be filtered out (in the Metropolitan Water Board supply),” Miller said. “It should be a cleaner water. Hopefully the color of the water should improve.”

Lattimore noted this water problem has been ongoing for 38 years – and the problems of flushing the lines stirs up the dirty water issues and exacerbates the community’s frustration. “You better make sure that the water pipes have a solution,” he advised village Trustees.

Once approvals, funding and engineering are complete, Miller said the project could get under way by early fall, and be complete by March 2016.

During the Oct. 21 meeting, Trustee John Halstead, as a way to bridge the communication gap between the administration and frustrated community members seeking a final resolution to Phoenix’s forty-year water problem, suggested the formation of a Citizen’s Water Committee.

Deputy Mayor Danny Dunn noted that in the 1970’s a similar committee, The Phoenix Village Water and Sewage Citizen’s Committee, was formed. “There was a lot of stuff that got hashed over, some stuff that got changed, and there was happy people and not so happy people,” he said.

Addressing concerns voiced by residents during recent meetings about dirty water caused when the village flushes hydrants or has a water main break, Halstead said he was working with village Supervisor Jim Lynch on better strategies.

Halstead said he and Lynch have been working on a plan to create a reverse 911 message system that would contact residents in the Oswego County emergency database via phone and text message to get the word out when there is a water main break or hydrant flushing – two of the major causes the village has identified for its water discoloration.

“We’re working on educating ourselves and finding a better way to educate the residents,” Lynch said.

Lynch added that the water tower was cleaned and inspected recently and there was “quite a bit” of sediment inside, but that it was unexpected.

“The company, nor us had any idea the water was going to be discolored like this,” Lynch said. “We’re going to put it on a regular maintenance schedule.”

And, in addition to its existing website, the village added social media to its lines of communication with its own Facebook page: Village of Phoenix.

The Trustees’ December board meeting was cancelled, and its next regular meeting will be Tuesday (Jan. 6), Sweet Memorial Building, Auditorium, 455 Main Street, at 7 p.m.

Phoenix Wells map
Oswego County GIS parcel view showing Peter Scott Swamp, the Sand Ridge Aquifer, and the location of village wells. Click image for full-sized view.

Part 1: Phoenix Finally Fixes Water Woes, click here.

Part 2: Phoenix Water Woes – Warriors on Alert, click here.