Forestville takes action and shuts down smelly well

FORESTVILLE, N.Y. (WIVB) — It didn’t take long after Forestville brought two new drinking wells on line that residents noticed an awful odor–like rotten eggs–and a dark residue settling on their laundry and dishes.

Initially village officials blamed minerals in the water, iron and manganese, and planned to utilize a technique known as “chemical sequestration” to improve the smell and the taste.

Chautauqua County’s Department of Health and Human Services tested the water and discovered the culprit–hydrogen sulfide gas in one of the wells–the “Bailey Well”–and village officials shut the well down. One of hydrogen sulfide’s characteristics is its strong odor resembling rotten eggs, and it is a naturally-occurring gas.

William Boria, a water resource specialist for the Chautauqua County Health Department said the sulfur gas tested within safe limits for drinking.

“This is not an uncommon problem. Approximately 20% of the wells in Chautauqua County contain sulfur– contain hydrogen sulfide.”

Forestville homeowner Angela Bittinger was among townsfolk who gathered Tuesday to witness Boria taking water samples at the Bailey Well off 4th Street, and admitted they have noticed the difference, “You don’t smell like a rotten egg when you get out of the shower.”

But Bittinger said, the other well they are drinking from, the “Someday Maybe Farms Well”, about 300 yards away, turned up high levels of coliform bacteria in January. Officials say follow up tests showed the water is safe, but Bittinger wants an independent lab to test the well.

“I wanted to get a sample today that I could take to a lab, and I could get tested, and they denied that request. They would not let me have a sample of the water.”

Neighbors say there is evidence of industrial soil contamination in the immediate area of the wells, but Boria said a thick layer of clay soil underground serves as a shield against man made contaminants.

“And that actually protects the aquifer from whatever happened in the past, or whatever is going to happen in the future.”

Homeowner Cheryl Kniese, Bittinger, and other village residents are researching past use of property around the village wells, and suspect some officials were aware of soil contamination before the wells were even dug.

Kniese said, “They wanted to pass the title from the county onto the business owners that purchased the land, so they would not be held responsible for the cleanup.”

The water samples taken Tuesday are being turned over to the state health lab in Albany, part of a program in which the state picks up the tab for smaller communities to test their drinking supplies. Results are expected in about a week.

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