SCHENECTADY – The city has provided permission for a property owner who has no running water to temporarily run a hose from a neighbor’s outside spigot.
Gangadai Surooj, owner of the two-family home at 216 Edwards St., has been without water for a month because of broken residential drinking water lines made of lead, a costly undertaking to repair.
The allowance for the neighbor’s water is until cold weather sets in, a city official said.
In the meantime, Surooj said a plumber gave her an estimate of $18,000 to $20,000 to replace the line.
The city used to have grant money to help owners replace their lead service lines, but the money was exhausted last year, according to City Commissioner of General Services Paul LaFond.
An untold number of homes in the city have lead laterals. The city hasn’t done an inventory of the approximately 16,000 structures in the city.
But about 80 property owners benefited from a state Lead Service Line Replacement grant that doled out $516,000 to city inhabitants, according to LaFond.
The grant program, announced in November 2017 as part of the state’s Clean Water Infrastructure Act, remained active for more than a year after it was supposed to expire. The money eventually ran out last year, LaFond said.
Water mains are the city’s responsibility, while residential laterals, the service lines piped into a particular property, are the responsibility of the homeowner.
Despite city code spelling out the latter, Surooj said she thinks the city should pay for her line replacement.
Surooj said she should be given consideration because she pays about $6,000 annually in property taxes, which she said is more than her neighbors because she has the only two-family on the block.
She also noted her elderly parents live in the building. She said her father is a dialysis and heart patient.
Surooj said city officials have told her that eventually the county Health Department will issue a notice to evacuate based on it not having running water, making it uninhabitable.
But LaFond said the city did everything it could for Surooj, with whom LaFond has been working since early last week.
He said the city let the owner know that there are programs available to help them through Better Community Neighborhoods if they qualify, or the county Department of Social Services, which provides emergency assistance to adults who receive Supplemental Security Income and who face emergency situations that endanger their health, safety or welfare.
LaFond said he went to Social Services, brought back applications for the property owner, and told her to reach out to Social Services because the request has to come from the homeowner. Awards are based on income.
LaFond said he also suggested that she check with local banks to see if she qualified for home improvement or equity loans.
The landlord next door who is sharing water from his hose spigot had his property’s lead pipes replaced last year.
Occasionally, a city resident will err in thinking it’s the city’s job to replace house laterals.
“It happens a few times,” Lafond said, “but once we do share with them the section of the code that shows the responsibility – a lot of them are just unaware of it. Not everybody goes in and reads the city code when they buy a property here.
“But some of them are aware of it,” he said. “They get their quotes from the plumbers, and we typically notify them through a letter that they have a service leak. We have a list of over 100 licensed and bonded plumbers that we give out to them. They get their quotes and it becomes something between the property owner and their contractor.”
At least one other local community has money to help owners replace lead service pipes. The Albany Water Department recently launched a program to aid homeowners in lead service replacements in an effort to have zero lead service pipes in Albany by 2040. It provides a reimbursement of up to $2,000 to assist in the full replacement of a lead service line.
Tenants or homeowners who are not able to complete a replacement are can receive free water filters to any household with a water sample that tests high for lead, above 10 parts per billion.