Here, there, and everywhere in New York State, drinking water and wastewater infrastructure is aging and breaking down. The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) states that New York State has at least $36 billion worth of necessary wastewater infrastructure upgrades – and yet the governor chose to dedicate $0 for water infrastructure despite more than $5 billion in surplus funds from bank settlements.
Environmental Advocates has joined with our partners at the Adirondack Council and Riverkeeper submitting testimony urging the Legislature to begin to bridge the gap by investing $800 million this year in wastewater infrastructure needs.
If your town, like many in New York these days, has a “boil water advisory” in effect, trust us, you’re going to want to heed that warning. These warnings mean drinking water supplies could possibly be contaminated by pathogens because of a water main break, sewage overflows, or other incidents. Many of the state’s water lines are decades (in some cases more than a century) old, and with a marked increase in severe weather patterns, there has never been a greater need to revamp this complex and maze-like system. In the Capital Region, it was recently reported that the town of Colonie has had 90 water main breaks this winter alone. Syracuse has had nearly 450 water main breaks since the beginning of 2014, and that comes with an estimated price tag of $700 million or more to repair the infrastructure.
Increased rain and snow melt events combined with wastewater infrastructure failures has led to hundreds of thousands of gallons of raw, untreated sewage to be dumped into water bodies that, in many cases, serve as drinking water supplies. In one notorious 2012 incident, Tarrytown officials were forced to dump 3.4 million gallons of raw sewage into the Hudson following a sewer line break. Superstorm Sandy caused billions of gallons of raw sewage to flow into the Hudson River and New York Harbor – and the storm doesn’t have to be severe. Every time it rains in New York City, sewage flows into our water bodies.
Events like these will only increase if action isn’t taken to increase water infrastructure funding. New York proudly has high quality water for drinking, swimming, and recreation – which is why we need to keep it that way. The state should invest $800 million in this budget for drinking and wastewater infrastructure so we can ensure our water is safe for generations to come.