There’s nothing like a water crisis story on television every night to make people wonder about their own water.
The alarming stories about perfluorooctanoic acid contamination in the public water supply in Hoosick Falls, and private wells in Pownal and North Bennington, Vermont, have been so prominent in the news that people are calling their local water systems wondering if they might be drinking PFOA water.
“We’ve had calls about it so we tested for it and it’s non-detectable,” said Ed Hernandez, executive director of the Saratoga County Water Authority.
Other local water sources around Schenectady, Saratoga and Amsterdam no doubt are the same, since PFOA is a pretty unusual chemical, associated with specific kinds of chemical manufacturing.
But all those communities have aging pipes — and their vulnerability became clear in January, when a major delivery main broke in Troy, affecting communities in Saratoga as well as Rensselaer counties. Aging pipes are a problem found in every upstate municipal water system.
The new state budget will put more money into water system repairs and replacements.
An additional $100 million this year and also next year will go into the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act, a grant program launched in 2015. A total of $175 million will be available each year, to help communities address their water problems.
In one case where some of that money might come in handy, the towns of Halfmoon and Waterford never again want to go through the water shortage they went through in January, since they are customers of Troy.
The towns are supporting the Saratoga County Water Authority’s effort to win $2 million in grant money to design and build a water line from the existing county terminus in Stillwater down into Halfmoon and Waterford.
The estimated cost is around $6.5 million. If the grant money comes through, the county authority and the two towns would figure out how to divvy up the rest of the cost.
Waterford officials hooked up to Cohoes water with hoses in January, and they’re talking to Cohoes about making a permanent connection when the Route 32 bridge between the two communities gets replaced this year. At that point, Waterford Supervisor John E. Lawler noted, the town would have three different sources of water — none of them the town’s water treatment plant on the Hudson River, which was shut down nearly a decade ago because of fears about PCB contamination in the river.
Statewide environmental organizations issued statements Friday praising the governor and Legislature for the water funding increase.
“Water pollution is a significant threat to the quality of life and our environment throughout the state,” said Jessica Ottney Mahar of The Nature Conservancy.
Adirondack advocates said the money will provide significant help to the small communities in the mountains, which lack the people to pay for new water systems.
“Most of the park’s 130 rural communities have fewer than 1,000 residents to foot the bill,” said Willie Janeway of the Adirondack Council. “All of them are willing to pay their fair share, but grants like these can bridge the gap between what they need and what they can afford.”
In a cool corner of the state tax code, the new budget provides that zero-emission and plug-in electric hybrid vehicles will qualify for a $2,000 per vehicle credit.
The Environmental Protection Fund will provide up to $5,000 for each electric vehicle a local government buys.
Stephen Williams is a Gazette reporter. Opinions expressed at his own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. He can be reached at 395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.