Is Aging Infrastructure Affecting Your Clean Water?

Original story published by TWC Spectrum News, Central NY
By Gabrielle Lucivero, March 21, 2017

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- In late October  2016, 11 million gallons of sewage spilled into Onondaga Lake.

"I think that says it all,” said Jim Howe, executive director of The Nature Conservancy in Central and Western New York. “This is because we have outdated infrastructure."

Officials say many of the pipes in Syracuse date back to the 19th century.

"We are still very vulnerable to the freeze and thaw cycle,” said Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner. “These extreme climate events that we have and the fact that for years and years there has not been enough maintenance for this system."

There have been leaks, spills and breaks. In fact, Miner says the city has already had 70 water main breaks this year alone.

"A considerable amount of water leaks from the pipes that carry Skaneateles Lake water to Syracuse,” Howe said.

On Tuesday, Miner joined members of Rebuild New York Now, calling on state leaders to provide necessary funding as they review the state budget.

"I'm really grateful to see the governor and our legislature really stepping up for investments in water quality,” said Howe. “I don't see the same urgency in Washington right now."

Howe says proposed federal budget cuts to the EPA neglect areas like Onondaga Lake. It may not be a source of drinking water, but the environment really can't afford it to have spills and contamination like this area has seen.

"A healthy environment is not just about a habitat for fish and wildlife,” said Howe. “It's about the quality of life for people. It's about clean water, it’s about clean air, it's about human health and it's about economic prosperity, and that message is not being heard in Washington right now."

In New York State, it's loud and clear. Governor Andrew Cuomo's proposed budget allots $2 million over five years for clean water infrastructure improvements. Miner says clean water infrastructure is just a part of the improvements she hopes the budget will include. She also pushed for funding to improve roads and bridges and add high-speed internet across the city.