LTE: State needs to commit $100M annually to lead pipe removal

The following letter to the editor was published in the Times Union on October 4, 2020 and was written by Rob Hayes, our Clean Water Associate.

As New Yorkers stay indoors during the COVID-19 pandemic, they shouldn’t have to worry that toxins in their homes will make them sick. Yet many of our neighbors are currently facing greater exposure to household lead hazards, including children taking classes online.

This is why I was pleased to see the Albany Water Department announce that it will replace lead water pipes servicing several homes in Arbor Hill. The result will be much cleaner drinking water for Orange Street residents.

While this project is funded through water department revenue, state grants have been critical for Albany’s efforts to get the lead out. Albany had previously received $500,000 from the state Department of Health’s Lead Service Line Replacement Program. This state aid makes lead pipe replacements affordable for local governments, creates good-paying jobs and ensures that homeowners and tenants aren’t burdened with any costs.

Albany quickly utilized the entire $500,000 grant, demonstrating that much more state funding is needed. New York has allocated $30 million to the Lead Service Line Replacement Program, but at least $1 billion is needed to dig up the estimated 360,000 lead pipes buried throughout the state. In Albany, close to 50 percent of the city’s housing stock was built before 1940 and is therefore at higher risk of having lead pipes.

Fortunately, Albany is committed to removing every lead pipe in the city. Our state government must now support that effort by boosting funding to at least $100 million annually for this critical work statewide.

Rob Hayes

Clean Water Associate
Environmental Advocates NY