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Auburn’s water treatment system works overtime to keep Owasco Lake water healthy

  • / Updated:
  • Staff Report 

The City of Auburn’s water filtration plant has been using a powder-activated carbon system since 2017 to combat harmful algae blooms in Owasco Lake, which provides drinking water to approximately 45,000 Cayuga County residents. However, local leaders are becoming concerned about the system’s longevity as the level of toxins in the raw water has drastically increased.

John West, the Chief Operator of the City of Auburn’s water filtration plant, has been closely monitoring the higher toxin levels. To keep up with the demand, West and his team have been adjusting the amount of carbon and other chemicals. Despite their efforts, West is worried and has commissioned a study to determine how high the toxins can get in the raw water before they must alter their method.

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West is hopeful that the results of the study, set to take place this spring, will guide their decision-making to ensure that the drinking water remains uncontaminated. In the meantime, he wants to assure Cayuga County residents that they are doing everything possible to keep the water safe. “If it’s not safe, they will know very quickly,” said West.

The carbon is added to the raw water to absorb the microcystins from the algae blooms. After that, the water travels through a settling tank and a rapid sand filter before reaching the faucet. The intricate system has been in place for years and has been successful in keeping the drinking water safe, but the rising toxin levels have raised concerns.

The City of Auburn takes the safety of its drinking water seriously, and West and his team will continue to work diligently to ensure that the water remains uncontaminated.