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Cape Vincent suspects illegal water hookups in Water District 2; health, sanitation concerns raised

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CAPE VINCENT — The town board Thursday voted to conduct a ground survey on Cape Vincent’s Water District 2 because of a suspicion that outside users of neighboring properties were making unauthorized private hookups to the public water system.

In a 4-0 vote, with Councilman Mickey W. Orvis recusing himself, the town agreed to hire Fourth Coast Inc., Clayton, to conduct the two- to four-week survey and determine how many private connections have been made and whether there are health and sanitation issues.

The survey is expected to cost Cape Vincent up to $2,000.

Town Supervisor Urban C. Hirschey said the town board believes there have been six or seven unofficial hookups since the district was created 15 years ago.

The district, created in 1997, draws water from the Development Authority of the North Country’s regional water line on Favret Road.

It includes only three users: Donald J. Mason, a former town councilman, Wesley A. Bourcy and a Hell Street property owned by Darrel J. Aubertine and his wife, Margaret S., according to Jefferson County’s tax map.

However, district residents seemed offended to learn the town’s plan and questioned why they were being targeted.

“I’ve got nothing to hide,” Mr. Mason said Thursday. “Are you also going to check every trailer park and every house?”

Councilman John L. Byrne III said while Water District 2 users are in compliance with the district’s rules, the town may be in violation of its agreement with DANC and could be held liable if something were to go wrong.

Town officials also hope the survey will help them form a legitimate, expanded Water District 2.

“There are geographic boundaries to this district. The problem is that we have users who are drawing water through this district that are not within the geographic boundaries,” town attorney Mark G. Gebo said. “Generally speaking, the regulatory agencies, when I’ve had to deal with them on these issues, don’t like the concept of outside users. If you are going to add somebody to the district, that’s fine. But expand the geographic boundary and bring them in.”

This is for a variety of reasons, Mr. Gebo said.

“That way you have shutoffs in place for each of the users. So, if there’s a problem just for one user, you haven’t got to shut off three,” he said. “And it gives the town a better handle on what to expect in terms of use; a better handle on handling something like a large break that might be affecting the usage in the system. It also makes it a little easier perhaps even to just monitor where leaks are taking place.”

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