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Well water might not be in city budget


It looks like the local residents and out-of-towners who have been clamoring in recent weeks for the city to stop allowing natural gas firms to dump wastewater from gas wells at the city sewage treatment plant are closer than ever to getting their wish.

During Thursday's city council meeting, Auburn Director of Municipal Utilities Vicky Murphy said a gas company that had been bringing the majority of water volume to the plant pulled out of the program. Murphy said the firm's water represented about more than 80 percent of the well water that was being processed by the city, and in light of that development, the city might take the hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue expected to come from that water out of the budget.

The company, she said, pulled out the day after between 150 and 200 locals and non-locals crowded city hall to protest the city's policy of accepting the water. The week following the rally, three representatives from the natural gas industry presented their own case to the city council, asking councilors to take in all sides before deciding and asking the council to avoid basing a decision on emotion.

Environmental advocates say the water is highly contaminated with known carcinogens and other chemicals that can be toxic to the Owasco River, where the plant discharges, and they have said the local plant is not designed to process such water. However, local officials have said the Auburn plant has processed the water for years, along with other industrial water, and both the New York DEC and federal EPA permit the plant to do so.

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