Fredonia, N.Y. — Paul Luce was not buying it that his water woes may soon be over.
“When I don’t see the orange water, then I’ll believe it.”
That’s what Luce says he and his wife have been living with for 15 years: tap water that’s tinted orange.
Pour a glass at the kitchen sink and you can see tiny rust-colored bits floating in it. And that’s after it passes through a filtering system when it enters his house on Fredonia’s James Place.
Luce won’t drink the water or cook with it. He doesn’t buy light colored clothing, because the water stains it that orange color. And he’s replaced the tub surrounding his bathroom several times because it too got stained over time.
So, when 2 On Your Side visited Luce Tuesday to share the news, he remained skeptical.
“All I’ve heard is a lot of noise from them and I haven’t seen anything getting done,” said Luce.
The ’them’ Luce refers to is village government in Fredonia. In the spring of 2016, the village water system was hit with 40 health code violations.
The estimated cost to correct them all? Around $30,000,000.
When we first reported on the many problems with the village water system, Mayor Athanasia Landis wasn’t sure where the money would come from. The annual budget for Fredonia village government is around $11,000,000.
Landis declared a state of emergency and the New York State Department of Health has stepping in with grants and loans to get the work started.
A $900,000 grant, coupled with a $600,000 loan taken out by the village, is being used to make improvements at the village’s water treatment plant. It’s the first substantial improvement to the water delivery system in memory.
“To put it in perspective, they have come leaps and bounds beyond what I’ve seen the previous ten years before that,” said Paul Snyder, engineer with the Chautauqua County Health Department.
On Monday, the village administrator received an approved emergency loan application for $1,400,000 from the state health department. The loan money is for replacing the old, cast iron water mains believed to be the cause of discolored water on six Fredonia streets, including James Place where Paul Luce lives.
After a special village board meeting approved a contract Monday, a fix to Luce’s water problem is one mayoral signature away from reality.
The preparations for this job where 1.8 miles of aging water mains will be replaced has already begun.
Survey and mapping work has been underway so that replacing the mains can be done as soon as possible.
Luce can see one of the surveying stakes in the ground from his front yard, but he’s not ready to believe the end to his dirty water is near.
“I really think that the only reason for that declaration of that emergency was that you did the story. That was (Mayor Landis’) emergency. You made everybody aware of the water in the village. I really appreciate it, but, let’s see what happens,” said Luce.
Village Administrator Richard St. George says the plan is to have all the targeted water mains replaced by October.