What Happened to the Water in New Paltz?

Residents were under a “Do Not Drink” advisory for a week earlier this month. The response to the crisis tells us New York has learned from previous local water issues.

The complaints started in earnest on February 8.

New Paltz residents detected something in their water. They posted on social media, talked to their neighbors, and phoned and messaged local officials describing an odor and taste like kerosene or natural gas.

A “Do Not Drink” advisory was issued on Monday, February 10, at about 9am. It was lifted just after midnight that Friday. The intervening hours saw local officials scrambling to alert residents and find the source of the problem, while coordinating with the state as it trucked in more than 50,000 gallons of potable water.

Recent water crises in Newburgh and Hoosick Falls were on their minds. Both of those communities struggled to have their voices heard, their problems addressed. Their crises appear to be more intractable than the one in New Paltz, but officials’ rapid response suggests the state has learned from the past.

Community Complaints

New Paltz Village mayor Tim Rogers says he received the first water complaint on Tuesday, February 4. A second came two days later. Over the weekend, they multiplied, and local officials began to act.

First came the advisory, which warned people not to drink the water nor use it for cooking or making ice. It applied to everyone in the village or town of New Paltz’s water districts, which includes SUNY New Paltz—between 12,000 and 15,000 people total, according to deputy mayor KT Tobin.

The village and town of New Paltz are distinct municipalities, but they get their water from the same place: four municipal reservoirs in the foothills of the Shawangunk Ridge. The reservoirs are replenished by rainwater coming off the ridge, but the one farthest down the slope—Reservoir Number Four—receives additional water from the Catskill Aqueduct, which also supplies water to High Falls, New Windsor, and 40 percent of New York City.

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