Watertown diverts money from park to drinking water project

Published: Aug. 10, 2023 at 6:13 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - Millions of dollars originally intended to enhance Thompson Park are now going into drinking water, and the city doesn’t have a choice.

You see it, you cross it, and you probably drink from it. For the Environmental Protection Agency, the Black River’s drinking water is a point of concern, and the city of Watertown has to fix it.

“We have to have our plan in place by the end of this year,” said City Manager Ken Mix.

The issue stems from elevated levels of disinfectant byproducts trihalomethane and halocetic acid found in drinking water. They’re released when chlorine is used to clean water. Although the amounts found in Watertown are below dangerous levels, the city is working to lower them below a threshold mandated by the EPA. Some preliminary steps are complete

“We’ve already done the environmental quality review so we’re working on it,” said Mix.

The project is projected to cost around $50 million. In order to help fund it and other projects in the city, the city council voted to rearrange how it’ll be using leftover COVID money.

“What ended up happening was that 10 of the projects that were previously targeted for ARPA were either taken out completely or partially reduced,” said Mix.

One project reduced in scope was the city’s master plan for Thompson Park. $3 million out of the $4.25 million allocated to the project will now be used to enhance the water treatment facility.

“That’s a little over 5% of the original project. It’s not a lot but it’s some. That just means that there will be less that we’ll have to borrow for,” said Mix.

Mix expects construction on the project to start at some point next year once all of the preliminary work is complete.