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What you need to know for 12/14/2017

Schenectady, Gloversville get help replacing lead water lines

Schenectady, Gloversville get help replacing lead water lines

Funds also granted to Troy, Albany
Schenectady, Gloversville get help replacing lead water lines
Photographer: Shutterstock

Several Capital Region cities are receiving state funds to replace old lead water pipes in residential areas.

Schenectady will get $516,565 to put toward the replacement of water lines, with the money coming from the state's Clean Water Infrastructure Act of 2017. Gloversville is to receive $623,655 for the effort.

The awards — part of $20 million in total grants issued this month through the "Lead Service Line Replacement Program" to cities and towns statewide — were announced Monday by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's office.

"These critical improvements to New York's drinking water infrastructure are vital to protecting public health and to laying the foundation for future growth and economic prosperity in these communities," said Cuomo, in a prepared statement. "With this $20 million award, we are helping to protect residents and their families across this state and are creating a stronger, healthier New York."

In addition to the awards to Schenectady and Gloversville, Troy and Albany will each get $516,565, according to Monday's announcement.

The funding comes after increased national attention on lead contamination brought on by the drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan. In a February report, state Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli listed lead issues as among the major problems facing aging New York water systems. Lead exposure is considered especially harmful to pregnant women and children.

The 2017-18 state budget created the Lead Service Line Replacement Grant program, and the grants announced this week are its first awards. The money can be used to replace residential service lines between the municipal water main and homes. The legislation required that the $20 million be distributed across all regions of the state -- and within each region, Cuomo's office awarded the same amount to reach municipality.

Cuomo's office said the money was allocated to communities with high percentages of children shown to have elevated lead levels, communities with relatively low median household incomes, and those with a substantial amount of housing built before 1939, meaning water lines serving those homes are more likely to contain lead.

"This statewide program to replace residential lead pipes in areas of the state that need it most will improve the health of New Yorkers," said state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker.

Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy said the first step in using the money will be for the city to conduct a study of where there's the most need for replacement piping. The money can be used for engineering and legal costs, as well as construction.

"It's always appreciated whenever we get assistance with our infrastructure funding needs," McCarthy said. "We will go through a process to identify the pipes that need to be replaced."

While Schenectady has some lead pipes, McCarthy noted the city's water is "somewhat hard" -- it has a high mineral content -- which means lead is less apt to dissolve into the water than would be the case with softer water, or water with high acidity levels.

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, swilliams@dailygazette.net or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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