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Officials in the town of Cape Vincent have an obligation to better regulate a water district whose users may be endangering the quality of drinking water.

Water District 2 has three sanctioned users, and they are permitting others to connect to their supplies. A letter from the New York State Department of Health urged town officials to take control of the district. These residents have declined to report the individuals to whom they’ve granted this access, the DOH letter said.

“In the April 7 letter, the department urged the town to take over control of Water District 2 from its three sanctioned users and expand it to include other properties. If users fail to cooperate with that plan, the town must presume a ‘hazardous designation’ and perhaps install a backflow-prevention device to ensure outside connections do not contaminate water that flows downstream,” according to a Monday story in the Watertown Daily Times. “From off Favret Road, the district’s water is supplied directly by the Development Authority of the North Country, which bills according to water use and the operation and maintenance of its regional water line. The line runs from Cape Vincent to Brownville along the old New York Central Railroad corridor.”

The district was formed in 1997. Town officials hired Fourth Coast Inc., Clayton, in 2012 to investigate how many other people were drawing water from the district aside from the three active users.

The report revealed that at least 12 other users have unregulated connections to the water supply, dairy farmers among them. The three sanctioned users are Margaret S. and Darrel J. Aubertine, Wesley A. Bourcy and Donald J. Mason.

“Fourth Coast’s 2012 map of the district shows all three users have established connections with outside users,” the Times’ story reported. “PVC piping likely was used to build those outside connections, according to Fourth Coast.”

The DOH is concerned that unregulated use of the system could result in contaminated water commingling with that provided by the district. The DOH said the town may have to install a backflow-prevention device to prevent this from happening.

The town should take control of Water District 2 and ensure all connections are regulated by the same standards and that all users pay the same costs for their water. This is the only way to assure all users that the water supply will remain healthy and everyone is being treated fairly.

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