How Lake Placid water gets to your house

Tom VanBenschoten, Lake Placid chief water operator (Provided photo)

If you ask people where Lake Placid gets its drinking water, most would answer Lake Placid lake. While this is correct, it is only part of the story. Until the late 1990s, water was pumped out of the lake, treated with chlorine and sent out to its water customers. By the year 2000, the Environmental Protection Agency put strict rules in place regarding the use of surface water such as Lake Placid lake. This dramatically changed the way water was treated before being sent out to customers.

Without being too technical, I’ll describe the process of how water gets to your house. The first step is for the water to be pumped out of the lake and in to holding tanks that are located at the plant. There an agent is mixed with the water to help filter impurities out before it going to the filtration tanks. The next step is to go through the chemical treatment phase which injects chlorine and other additives. Then the treated water goes into a holding tank, which by design helps mix the filtered water and chemicals together. From there the water is ready to be pumped out either to the reservoir, water customers or both at once.

Our water reservoir, which is located on the top of Mount Whitney, is a very important part of this system. Without the reservoir, the pumps at the filtration plant would not have enough pressure to get the water to all households. Our reservoir which is called a tower, holds 1.5 million gallons of water. A big safety improvement to our water reservoir was done in the late 1990s when the reservoir was taken from an open reservoir to an enclosed tank. (The open reservoir in the past was lovingly referred to as the frog pond.) The new plant with its expanded data points and variable speed pumps is much more capable and efficient, saving both time and money. It is possible to use anywhere from one to all eight of tanks for filtration and during the backwash phase just the tank that needs backwashing will be backwashed instead of all eight. If there is a problem at the filtration plant, the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system will send out a warning which tells the operator what the problem is so the operator can dispatch someone to fix the problem.

While the new water plant is fully automated the system still needs qualified people to oversee the operation and step in when there’s a problem. There are now multiple staff that have water licenses which are required to be a plant operator. They are also licensed at the sewer plant so they can cover both or fill-in where needed. Cross training, redundancy and depth of field is something the village has been working on in all departments for the last 15 years.

During the eclipse, our water output went from an average of 800,000 gallons to 1.5 million, which rivals the one day record. The maximum capacity of our plant is around 5 million gallons a day. While the plant could put out that much water, our supply lines could never handle that pressure if it were put on them. This means that our water plant capacity should serve the community for decades to come.

These upgrades were made possible by being awarded a total of $2.98 million in state grants. These grants were applied to the total cost of $4.5 million. The balance was put into long-term financing, which will be paid off over the next 30 years.

The life expectancy of the new plant is expected to be 30 years or as my father would say, it will outlive me. The village board is going to take a tour of the water plant and would like to extend an invitation to anyone in the community who would like to join that tour. Please sign up at Lake Placid Community Day or contact Anita Estling, our village clerk, at 518-523-2584.

(Art Devlin is mayor of the village of Lake Placid.)

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