A look back at key water spending
New York has invested $5 billion over the last seven years into a clean water grant program bolstering drinking water, wastewater and other projects across the state.
But the governor’s administration has failed to keep pace with the investment, leaving around $1.6 billion unspent despite a growing list of shovel-ready projects across the state, a new analysis from Environmental Advocates of New York found.
The report examined spending under the state’s Clean Water Infrastructure Act first approved in 2017. It found that the bulk of the spending in that time has been used to support improvements to municipal wastewater and drinking water systems, supporting 2,100 projects in total.
The report calls for an acceleration of spending under the clean water program. The governor has immense discretion over how the money is spent, even as lawmakers have added $500 million per year in recent years.
Demand is there. Every year communities propose hundreds of millions of dollars in projects that don’t receive state funding. Those projects are often shelved as officials seek state support.
The report also highlights areas where greater investment is needed, such as for lead service line replacement. An estimated 500,000 such service lines exist statewide, connecting home to water services with potentially harmful lead pipes.
Under federal rules, communities are creating inventories of all those lines this year and are expected to replace all of those lines by 2037. Despite that broader push, Environmental Advocates found, the state has not distributed a lead service line replacement grant since 2019.
Gov. Kathy Hochul in her budget proposed cutting the annual investment to the clean water program from $500 million to $250 million, raising concerns among advocates and communities seeking funds.
While the program in coming years will be bolstered by funding from the state Green Bond Act and federal infrastructure investments, the cut would set back the state in completing needed water infrastructure program, according to the report.
“If this proposed cut is adopted, it would constitute a significant retreat from New York’s ambitions to be a national leader on clean water,” Environmental Advocates cautioned.
Youth-led nonprofit takes road salt problem to the classroom
The Water Insecurity Correction Coalition, a youth-led nonprofit founded by 22-year-old Greenwhich native Annabel Gregg, has expanded programs to the Adirondack Park over the past year.
The nonprofit is focused on road salt contamination, conducting a public survey of residents about their feelings toward the problem. They are also working with students and teachers in Northville and Saranac Lake high schools to collect chloride samples from nearby waterbodies.
Gregg said she wants the organization to help engage younger audiences and help connect residents with solutions to contamination problems.
“There seemed to be a gap in how residents in the park are involved in this process, what they know about it and what they can do about it,” Gregg said. “It’s the most basic level of a problem.”
Photo at top: Lake George wastewater treatment plant operator Tim Shudt stands on a platform above the plant’s new water tanks, where bacteria help clean wastewater. Photo by Zachary Matson.
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