City Council studies water tower report

The preliminary engineering report on the water tower improvements is out and the results are clear. The big blue beast needs painting. The New York Mills City Council called for the report to evaluate the condition of the city's only water tower...

The preliminary engineering report on the water tower improvements is out and the results are clear. The big blue beast needs painting.

The New York Mills City Council called for the report to evaluate the condition of the city's only water tower and make recommendations for necessary improvements. The most evident concern is the tower's exterior and its growing rust spots.

Large sections of paint have lost cohesion with the tower and the coating has blistered and delaminated in several areas. Once exposed, the large sections of steel begin to rust, which can over time, result in structural weaknesses.

Depending on one of three temporary water storage facilities the city decides to use while repainting the structure the project is estimated to cost between $240,000 and $270,000.

In June of 2005, the city had a lead analysis done on the exterior paint. According to the results the existing paint contains 7.8 percent lead by weight. By definition, paint is considered to be "lead paint" when it contains more than 0.5 percent lead by weight.


More testing on the lead content in the paint on both the interior and exterior of the tank will occur. It is not known at this time whether the interior paint is lead-based. To test the interior, a diver will likely have to be lowered into the tank to obtain a sample.

With the presence of lead paint improvements, including sandblasting to remove the existing paint, are needed and will be expensive. This process would include dropping a large curtain over the entire structure to contain the paint. Once temporary storage facilities are in place, the main tower would be out of operation for roughly four weeks.

According to the report, the poor condition of the coating on the exterior of the water tower means significant improvements are justified. The presence of lead paint and the need for temporary facilities complicate this process and add significant cost.

If the city does nothing and lets the coating continue to deteriorate, oxidation will continue to damage the steel structure, ultimately leading to more costly repairs in the future.

The report lays out two options. One calls for simply over-coating the existing paint. This would be the less expensive option but likely be a short-lived solution. Test results indicated the existing paint, that which appeared to be in good condition, had very poor cohesion to the underlying steel and overcoat was not recommended.

The second alternative is to remove all the existing paint and apply a new coating. The existing paint will be removed by sand blasting until the underlying steel is exposed. A new 3-part coating would then be applied to the exterior. This option is more expensive, primarily due to the lead-based paint, it will provide a reliable coating system for the next 10-15 years. The actual tower structure is in good condition and should service the city for many more years, if properly maintained.

The 150,000 gallon water tower provides elevated storage of treated water to the municipal water distribution system. It was originally constructed in 1969. The interior and exterior of the tank were repainted in 1985.

In 2003, the city performed some significant repairs and updates, including replacement of riser pipe and insulation, as well as repair and replacement of concrete footings.


The exterior paint at over 20 years old is past the typical life expectancy. Exterior tower coatings, in this climate, have a typical life expectancy of 10 to 15 years, according to the engineering report.

The tank interior was inspected in 2004 and found to be in good condition, but the engineer recommends the interior be repainted the same time as the exterior because of the significant amount of money to be spent on temporary facilities to re-coat the exterior of the tank. Re-coating the interior at the same time would be much more cost effective than waiting to perform this in a separate project.

The council was presented the report Monday at its regular monthly meeting and will discuss the issue further next month.

The opinion stated in the report recommends the improvements be performed during late spring, before the warmer summer months when water usage is peaking.

Once the city decides to move forward with this project the fun begins. The council must choose a color and any possible logos, which can be nearly anything. Perhaps a contest of sorts to encourage public input is in order when the time comes to decide on a logo.

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