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St. Johnsville residents want say in potential sale of village water

A glass of tap water.
WAMC File Photo
A glass of tap water.

The Village of St. Johnsville in western Montgomery County, New York says it needs more information from a bottled water company that is seeking to utilize its drinking water source. Meantime, a group of concerned residents wants a say in any future actions.

The company BlueTriton Brands, formerly Nestle Waters North America, is eyeing the public drinking water supply for the small community of St. Johnsville to use for its drinking water products.

According to the company, BlueTriton has been monitoring the Congdon Springs site for several years as it considers purchasing village water.

The springs, located in the nearby Fulton County Town of Ephratah, supplies water to St. Johnsville’s village water system.

The company says the village uses only 33 percent of its water capacity and that it would seek to purchase up to 3 percent of the village’s water.

The company, which has operated test wells on the water supply, remains under an agreement with the village to study water.

For years, village residents have had questions about what a possible sale of water to Nestle/BlueTriton would look like, and have expressed concerns over potential financial implications and impacts on the water supply itself.

Things have become testy between advocates and local officials at public meetings, according to Jordan McDaniel, one of the residents who is seeking answers.

“The village board is not becoming transparent in any of this. In fact, they’re becoming shut down and they’re trying to close us taxpayers or us people – they’re trying to shut us down a little bit by curbing our questions, the amount of time it takes to try to deliver a question to receive an answer,” said McDaniel.

An inquiry to St. Johnsville village hall was referred to village attorney Norman Mastromoro. He acknowledged friction between residents and the village board over the last several months.

“It’s been frustrating, I guess… I would say, this is my opinion, I don’t know if nobody has said this that…the board for about five or six monthly meetings in a row has been hit with a deluge of questions,” said Mastromoro.

Mastromoro says BlueTriton has not approached the village with a formal proposal.

At its monthly meeting in August, the St. Johnsville village board passed a resolution that says if the company makes a formal proposal to purchase village water, it would need to complete a state environmental review form and present findings to the village board for review.

Again, Mastromoro…

“To put it simply, the ball is now in their court and the village will be doing nothing further until Blue Triton might come back with part one of the environmental assessment. And even then, that is not an assurance that the village will agree to sell its water,” said Mastromoro.

Some say the decision over any potential sale of village water should be made by the people.

Katrina Caringi says she’s been concerned about the issue since 2018. She and others are working to gather signatures for a petition calling for village residents to have the final say.

“We just feel that this decision should go to a public vote, that is all our petition is stating, is that the public should have a say in the future of our public water supply,” said Caringi.

BlueTriton responded to a WAMC request for an interview in August with a written statement that reads:

“At BlueTriton we are strongly committed to being true stewards of the springs and good citizens where we operate or seek to operate.” The statement continues, “With more than 175 years of experience sustainably managing springs, we are committed to preserving them for generations to come.”

The next St. Johnsville Village Board meeting is Tuesday.

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.