They got you coming and going

Posted 3/5/24

At a recent town board meeting, a citizen inquired about being billed for water coming into his home and then again for waste water going out. Weren’t we being double billed, he asked. It …

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They got you coming and going


At a recent town board meeting, a citizen inquired about being billed for water coming into his home and then again for waste water going out. Weren’t we being double billed, he asked. It seemed like a reasonable question until the town supervisor answered that the water department and the sewer department were two separate entities with entirely different functions. If I wasn’t convinced of his logic at the time, I am now.

Last week, as a newly minted board member, I was treated to a tour of Tusten’s water and sewer districts by Dave Bunce, the superintendent. Dave is a tall and sturdy man with sparkling blue eyes, whose everyday wardrobe includes a trucker’s cap with a four-leaf clover pin and a fleece-lined sweatshirt. His knowledge of the systems he manages for our town is encyclopedic. I rode along with fellow board member Kevin McDonough in Dave’s sturdy Ford F-150. Kevin has been on this tour before so I got to ride shotgun in front. 

We rode up to the water tower first. Located on a hill overlooking Feagles Lake, it’s the kind of place teenagers used to go to neck. Remember necking? Dave explained that the tower was past its prime. When I first joined the board in January this year, I asked to be assigned to this committee. After all, “Water is Life,” as the Damascus Citizens for Sustainability sign says. 

Made of steel in the 1930s, the tower stores water from the two active pumps in the district and releases it as needed. It was due to be replaced in the 1980s, but kept being put on hold by successive boards for various reasons, most having to do with money. 

Time has run out and our town has embarked on the Great Water Project. The town secured a grant that is limited to $7.5 million. The town supervisor estimates that might only cover 80 percent of the project, which includes the tower, new water mains and hydrants in the district.

The new tower will be made of concrete with an epoxy lining. A recent water main break on School Street could have been managed without affecting Main Street businesses if the old tower had a shut-off valve. But one of the many mysteries of our water system that Dave pointed out during our tour was that lack. Since then, a shut-off has been installed at the tower.

Next, Dave showed us the water pumping stations. Those are the chain-link fenced areas with the squat concrete buildings in the middle. What’s inside is a very clean space with a separate enclosure for chlorine purification. Those buildings are monitored by workers every day who note the levels on a clipboard. Two workers are needed to monitor the spaces with chlorine as gas can easily overcome one and the second worker would have to call for rescue. It can be a dangerous job and workers have to go through extensive training and testing before being credentialed.

Now I have had a home in the water and sewer district for 25 years, but I never envisioned the sight we saw next. Driving up a hillside behind the lumberyard, Dave stopped at the top and pointed to a virtual moonscape below, next to the railroad tracks. There, four large sand pits gurgled with water from the sewer system as workers raked the pits. I recognized my neighbor Craig from the Flats as one of the workers. 

Kevin and I, both writers, agreed the spot was perfect for a murder mystery. Down the hill we went as Dave pointed out the various processes our sewage goes through before it enters the Delaware as treated wastewater via underground pipes. It is a marvel of engineering and I can attest to seeing the end result was as crystal clear going into the river as the water coming from our taps.

tusten, water, sewer, district, coming and going, rivermuse damascus citizens, sustainability, great water project,


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