Press Releases

Adirondack Waters at Risk from Aging Infrastructure

World Class Tourism Destination Needs $100 Million to Fix Wastewater Treatment Systems

For more information:
John F. Sheehan
518-432-1770 ext. 203 (ofc)
518-441-1340 (cell)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, Nov. 21, 2016

ELIZABETHTOWN, N.Y. – Adirondack clean water advocates and officials today called on the state to increase funding to the NYS Clean Water grants program to assist Adirondack communities that are facing $100 million in infrastructure needs.

The request is based on the findings of the Adirondack Council’s report entitled Clean Water Infrastructure in the Adirondack Park: Crisis or Opportunity.

With more funds, the state will have the resources to provide up to $25 million in grants to help offset the costs to Adirondack taxpayers and ensure Adirondack communities get their fair share of the state grant program.

Statewide, the Adirondack Council joined other clean water advocates in seeking $800 million in increased funding in the 2017/2018 state budget through the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act, noting that statewide needs are in the billions of dollars.

“Adirondack pure waters – as well as efforts to build world-class tourism accommodations in Adirondack communities – are at risk from aging water and wastewater treatment facilities,” said Adirondack Council Executive Director William C. Janeway. “Fixing these problems will impose a large financial burden upon rural taxpayers. State grants should continue to help fund repairs and upgrades to ensure that Adirondack waters are protected from human effluent. These communities cannot do it alone.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the NYS Legislature approved $10 million in clean water grants for communities in the Adirondack Park in the last two years, through the NYS Water Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2015. Of the $425 million in the fund state-wide, only $175 million remains and will be allocated by next summer making new investments critical.

A $100 million investment is needed in addition to the $20 million in clean water projects already underway in Adirondack towns, according to Clean Water Infrastructure in the Adirondack Park: Crisis or Opportunity. Saranac Lake, Elizabethtown, Willsboro and Lake Placid are among the places that are receiving grants. Many more communities are identified that need grants, including Lake George.

Seven Adirondack communities are already under consent-orders from the state to improve their wastewater facilities, Janeway stated. Other towns need help with drinking water, he explained. Many of the park’s clean water facilities were built with federal funds that are no longer available.

What happens to Adirondack water has an impact on other parts of New York because most of the state’s major rivers begin in the Adirondack Park. The park also draws 10 million annual visitors, who expect to find clean water.

“Adirondack communities are willing to invest in clean water, but how can we expect towns with only a few hundred residents to pay for multi-million-dollar projects?” he said. “Our towns need help bridging the gap between the improvements they need and the improvements they can afford.”

“Lake George is a village of 900 year-round residents who need $17 million to construct a new wastewater treatment plant to replace the one built in 1930,” said Lake George Mayor Robert Blais. “The village has applied for $10.5 million in state grants to afford this project. The purity of Lake George is vital to our tourism economy and to the quality of our drinking water.”

“Lake George is drinking water – 75 percent of the properties around the Lake draw from it or wells in the watershed,” said Lake George Association Executive Director Walt Lender. “Our communities need infrastructure upgrades (or rebuilds) to ensure that Lake George is properly protected in Hague, Bolton, the Village of Lake George and everywhere. That will preserve our Class AA-Special water quality and support our economy.”

“The Olympic Village of Lake Placid is in need of nearly $7 million in infrastructure upgrades said Town of North Elba Supervisor Roby Politi. “Without clean water we cannot safely host our many world-class events, accommodate an endless visitor population and provide a healthy lifestyle for local residents.”

“Clean, safe water is the most basic need for any economic development plan,” said Kate Fish, Executive Director of the Adirondack North Country Association. “Our rural communities can support lots of new, sustainable growth with the right infrastructure.”

“The Boquet River Association supports state grants for clean water projects in the Adirondacks,” said BRASS Director Anita Deming. “Keeping our rivers clean downstream of communities begins with effective treatment and handling of wastewater.”

“The water quality of the Ausable River is essential to our local economy and to the health of our human and wild communities,” said Kelley Tucker, Executive Director of the Ausable River Association. “State wastewater treatment grants make it possible for hamlets such as Keeseville and Au Sable Forks to repair and upgrade their public health infrastructure. These two small, rural communities alone require $12 million in improvements.”

“Meeting the growing demand for water infrastructure improvements in the Adirondacks is of critical importance to protecting the Park’s fragile ecosystem, which is the backbone of its economy and home to some of our state’s most beloved and iconic bird species, including the Common Loon and Black-throated Blue Warbler,” said Erin Crotty, Executive Director of Audubon New York. “These investments are also important to protecting the health of its communities and a prudent fiscal strategy.”

“We cannot let failing wastewater infrastructure ruin the pristine waters of the Adirondacks,” said Marcia Bystryn, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters. “While there are significant needs to aid inadequate water treatment facilities around the state, the problem is particularly acute in the Adirondack Park, threatening its natural environment, visitors, nearby residents, and the region's economic vitality. The results of this report are clear: the best way to fulfill the $100 million in investment needed to protect the Park is to reauthorize and expand the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act by funding at least $800 million in grants statewide each year."

The Environmental Protection Agency’s 2014 Clean Waters Needs Assessment Report and the NYS Environmental Facilities Corp.’s own Clean Water Infrastructure Report findings identified long-term wastewater and drinking water infrastructure needs in the Adirondack Park that – over the next five to 10 years – will amount to hundreds of millions of dollars, the Council’s report stated.

“Adirondack communities also need help getting their projects into a state of readiness before they can qualify for the state’s grant programs,” Janeway explained. “Our report calls for additional state assistance with planning, engineering and design costs.

Janeway said that the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act is clearly the most important funding stream available today to help Adirondack communities to address their wastewater treatment plant needs and protect the very resource that they rely on for their economic future.

The first two rounds of state funding have already been awarded. Based on past allocations, Round Three applications and the resulting awards statewide will exhaust the remaining $175 million in funds available for this clean water grant program while the need state-wide remains in the billions.

“We call upon all Adirondack communities in need of funding to apply in Round Three for NYS Clean Water Grants program and to apply for technical engineering assistance where needed. For those communities that have received grants or have recently built new wastewater facilities like Newcomb, help with asset management and adaptive management support is critical to maintaining facility operation and effectiveness.”

The Adirondack Council an independent, privately funded, not-for-profit organization. The Council’s mission is to ensure the ecological integrity and wild character of the Adirondack Park. The Council envisions an Adirondack Park comprised of large, core Wilderness areas, surrounded by working forests and farms and vibrant local communities.

The Adirondack Council carries out its mission through research, education, advocacy and legal action. Adirondack Council members live in all 50 United States.

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