Popular spring closed off after decades of pub­lic use

New own­ers plan to make wa­ter avail­able again

The Citizen-Record (Cumberland) - - CUMBERLAND COUNT Y - BY AN­DREW WAGSTAFF

FOX RIVER - A popular wa­ter­ing hole here could once again be avail­able to the pub­lic, if the new prop­erty own­ers have their way.

For decades peo­ple have stopped at the Fox River wa­ter­ing spring, usu­ally to fill up a few jugs to take home. That stopped in Septem­ber, when the wa­ter lines were qui­etly re­moved, leav­ing peo­ple scratch­ing their heads.

For what­ever rea­son the lines were re­moved, new prop­erty owner Karen Faulkner said she and hus­band Craig plan on mak­ing the wa­ter avail­able again.

“We are plan­ning on putting the line back in, but it prob­a­bly won’t be un­til spring,” she said. “We want to check the crock and make sure that it’s not filled with de­bris or any­thing. But it’s just get­ting too cold.”

The Faulkn­ers pur­chased the prop­erty about a month ago, she ex­plained, but it was the pre­vi­ous owner who had the wa­ter lines re­moved after be­ing con­tacted by the depart­ment of en­vi­ron­ment (DOE).

The DOE of­fice in Amherst had been con­tacted about the site by the med­i­cal of­fice of health, after peo­ple who drank wa­ter from there re­ported be­com­ing sick from gi­a­r­dia, a par­a­sitic in­fec­tion also known as “beaver fever.”

Tanya MacKen­zie, an in­spec­tor spe­cial­ist at the Amherst DOE of­fice, in­spected the site on Sept. 9, and de­ter­mined it was un­safe.

“You’re tak­ing an aw­ful chance, drink­ing spring wa­ter run­ning down that hill,” she said. “It’s not tested, and you never know what’s in the wa­ter at any given point in time.”

She said that there are likely E. coli bac­te­ria from an­i­mal fe­ces in the wa­ter, and also pointed to any chem­i­cals sprayed in the blue­berry fields above as a po­ten­tial risk.

Lo­cals and vis­i­tors alike have filled up there for years, with many claim­ing it to be the best­tast­ing wa­ter around. Ron Shaw, who grew up nearby, said his fam­ily drank wa­ter from that spring for years and never once got sick.

“We used it ev­ery day, year-round for drink­ing,” he said. “In the sum­mer we usu­ally had to haul wa­ter from the spring when the well went dry. I be­lieve my fam­ily got wa­ter there for at least 50 years.”

Another lo­cal res­i­dent, Michael Fuller, said he too has drunk wa­ter from there for many years, as have his vis­i­tors who have come here to take part in paraglid­ing.

“When paraglider pi­lots come here they al­ways stop there to fill their jugs,” he said. “No one that I know of has ever be­come ill. Be­cause of the sur­face na­ture of the spring it un­doubt­edly gets cor­rupted from time to time with sur­face run-off, which can have bac­te­ria that’s not ‘pass­able.’ How­ever, the deep spring sure seems very pure.”

Faulkner said her fam­ily has also en­joyed that wa­ter for about 30 years, and never once got sick. The chance to make wa­ter avail­able there again was one of the main rea­sons she wanted to buy the prop­erty.

Once the lines are re­in­stalled, she said they would post a sign ad­vis­ing peo­ple to use the wa­ter at their own risk.

“When Craig was work­ing this sum­mer on blue­ber­ries, he drank out of a brook and ended up get­ting sick,” she said. “But he wasn’t think­ing of su­ing the per­son who owns the prop­erty, be­cause it was his choice to drink out of the brook.”

Fuller agreed, say­ing peo­ple could just as eas­ily get sick from food in their own fridge.

“How quickly we move to the low­est common de­nom­i­na­tor, thus let­ting a glitch de­fine our free­dom to en­joy our world,” he said. “We take risks ev­ery day.”

Lo­cal county coun­cil­lor Don Fletcher looked into the mat­ter after res­i­dents con­tacted him about the re­moval of wa­ter lines from the site. He said it is im­por­tant to have pub­lic wa­ter avail­able for peo­ple that is tested and con­trolled, and pointed to the pub­lic wa­ter source made avail­able by the mu­nic­i­pal­ity next to the Har­ri­son’s store out­side of Amherst as an ex­am­ple.

“When I was a kid, any brook that ran 20 feet over rocks, you could drink from it,” he said. “But there is a lot more stuff be­ing sprayed and things hap­pen­ing now than there was back then. Test­ing, after Walk­er­ton, is a pub­lic re­spon­si­bil­ity and in this case it’s the landowner. If they put a sign up say­ing ‘Use at Your Own Risk,’ I guess that’s for a lawyer to de­cide, but I would think it would be OK. I do know a lot of peo­ple stop there.”

What is wa­ter from a source like the Fox River spring can change from day to day, hour to hour, ac­cord­ing to MacKen­zie, who said she would re­turn to in­spect the site again if the lines are re­in­stalled.

Ava Cza­palay stops for a drink at the Fox River spring while plan­ning the Age of Sail Marathon in 2011. After decades of pub­lic use, the spring had its wa­ter lines re­moved a few months ago, but new prop­erty own­ers plan to have the wa­ter ac­cess re­in­stalled at the site.

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