- The Washington Times - Monday, March 19, 2007

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (AP) — The famed “natural mineral water” baths at Saratoga Spa State Park have been diluted with regular tap water for the past two decades, state officials confirmed yesterday.

The park’s baths attract about 14,000 customers a year who pay $20 for the privilege of soaking in the bubbly water.

“I thought I was bathing in pure mineral water,” Kristina Weilbacher, 22, of San Antonio, told the New York Post, which first reported the situation. “I definitely should have been told.”

State parks spokeswoman Eileen Larrabee said yesterday that the state has never had a consumer complaint about the water mix, but she said the state wants to make sure people are fully informed about the makeup of the baths.

“We need to clarify that practice,” Miss Larrabee said.

The state and the company that operates the baths, Xanterra Parks & Resorts, mix heated public drinking water with the chilly carbonated mineral water pumped up from more than 1,000 feet below the surface, the newspaper said.

Miss Larrabee said it was not immediately clear why the mixing started. The Post said it began when a mineral water heater used by the park since the 1930s broke down.

“They’re lying to the public. It’s the state committing fraud,” former Saratoga Springs Mayor Raymond Watkin told the Post.

There was no immediate response to calls seeking comment from Xanterra’s Colorado headquarters.

State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, who represents the city, called on the governor’s administration to investigate.

“The report that ordinary tap water has been secretly used at the baths could damage Saratoga’s reputation and be harmful to business and tourism,” he said.

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