By Susan Monteleone
NARROWSBURG January 24, 2003 The Town of Tusten Town Board recently received a letter from the New York State Department of Health informing them that the sodium level in some of the towns wells is excessive and that the town physician should be notified.
However, as of Wednesday, Highland Physicians Ltd., located just before the flats area in Narrowsburg (where the salt concentration was noted), stated that they have never been notified of the water problem.
According to Town Supervisor Richard Crandall, former Water and Sewer Superintendent Scott Birney did notify the doctors office but was not 100 percent certain when the same problem came before the board last year.
When Birney was questioned on the issue of sodium, he noted, When I was in the position, the water district sent out numerous reports regarding the exceeded levels, and I know we did that for the past year. I further know that the Highland Physicians were notified by myself at least 3 to 4 times, and they received an Annual Water Quality Report, which informs them of the water contents.
I can also note that we stumbled on the sodium levels by accident, he continued. The sodium is not a required water mineral test, and we happened to do it. We are thankful for that, because if we didnt stumble on it, the water problem may never been noticed.
Studies and research have been done to help in the solution of solving the water problem in the township. Further, everyone in the water district does receive a Consumer Confidence Report, which describes the water in the township. If they are renters, the landlord gets the notices, and he is to pass them on to the renters. The main homeowners in the district do receive the report.
Birney added that the Highland Physicians Office experienced a major fire in 2000, and many records and documents were lost. He surmised that past water reports may have been lost in the fire.
When Crandall was asked if newly appointed Water and Sewer Supt. Ron Schalck had drafted a letter to the doctors office, he noted that he believed he did but if he didnt, a letter would reach the doctors office by the end of the week.
When the Highland Physicians office was asked about the issue, Christopher Coccia, an OM physician at the office, stated, This is the first I am hearing about the high level of sodium in the water. I have been here for sometime, and if we were notified this year or last year, I would know about it for sure.
And Office Manager Michele Davis, Head Nurse Ruthann Reagan, former office manager Carol Creamer and Dr. Jon Sternberg all claimed that they have never been informed of a water problem in the area, past or present.
Coccia described some of the symptoms that could affect people who have high blood pressure and are drinking the now-elevated-sodium-level water.
Just drinking bottled water is not going to solve the problem it has to be corrected, said Coccia. The higher levels can drive up the already high blood pressure in that patient being treated for the high blood pressure. They could experience headaches, dizziness, and other types of symptoms . . . as if they were eating too much salt. People could further experience more swelling and retain water in the body.
If people are showering in the water, the skin can become very dry, he continued. People should not panic over this. I am sure it will be corrected, and if they have any concerns, they should contact their doctors. They can also purchase a Brita Water Filter for the faucet or even one of the filter pitchers that are now on the market.
Schalck, when contacted, noted, A letter from me is in the process of being drafted and will be sent to the local doctors offices. The town will be sending the letter by return receipt, and the office will have it by the 24th. I was away at school when the letter was received by the board and just got back.
I do know in the past that the doctors have been informed and also the community, he continued. In September 2000, Scott Birney sent a letter to the office in regards to the water content, which at that time the sodium level was above 20mg. The Department of Health requires us to send the letters if there are any changes in the water levels. Birney further sent them a copy of the 2000 Confidence Report, and Birneys letter to them is on file.
As far as the water, said Schalck, in July it was at 20 parts per million, and at the same well, it went to 37, and now it is at 52, which is over [the recommended level], and the public will be notified. We are working on a solution. The Consumer Confidence report will be out again this May, and the people should all receive it.
Schalck said if people are concerned, they should go to their local physician.
Right now I want the people to know that we do have a problem with the water, and we are working on correcting the problem, he said. The local doctors will be notified.
Schalck said he was worried about people who have out-of-town doctors, who will not be automatically notified. He said he will do his best to get the information out there via mail and newspapers.
Schalck said the problem with the salt entering the wells in the past is that the water in the flats area has no place to go.
Currently, the highway department is not using salt in the area, and we are researching the issue of alternate drainage to solve the water problem in the area, he stated.
The new Consumer Confidence Report is due out in May, and if a resident does not receive the report, copies can be obtained at the Tusten Town Hall in Narrowsburg.