Clean water needs to be a top priority

Would you drink a glass of water with a straw made of 100 percent lead? It is possible that you already do. The thought of lead-contaminated drinking water may conjure up images of the terrible situation in Flint, Mich., but in communities across the nation, including locally, many of the service lines that bring water into homes are made of lead. When corrosion, water stagnation, or changing water chemistry or flow occur, lead can leach out of these pipes and into the water. There is no safe level of lead in drinking water.

To begin addressing this issue, the $2.5 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act of 2017 created a $20 million Lead Service Line Replacement Program. The program funds the full cost of removing these pipes, rather than forcing municipalities or homeowners to bear these costs. A family struggling to make ends meet cannot afford the additional expense of replacing a service line. In this first round of funding, this program awarded the city of Gloversville with $623,655. The city was chosen due to its percentage of children with elevated blood lead levels, number of homes built before 1939, and median household income. An application is available from the Gloversville Water Board for city residents to have their service lines replaced at no cost.

For those living outside Gloversville, there are precautions you can take. You can order a free test of your own drinking water through the state Department of Health website. Consider a home water filtration system. Let your water run for several minutes after it has not been used for several hours. Use only cold water, not hot water, for drinking.

Addressing lead in drinking water shouldn’t be up to individual homeowners. As state and local leaders, we need to do all we can to ensure our water is clean and safe. We need to dig these pipes up and replace them before they make anyone sick, but Gloversville cannot do this alone. Michigan and California have committed the resources needed to eliminate lead service lines. All New Yorkers should likewise be able to turn on the tap without fear.

The state budget negotiations are currently underway in Albany, and the clock is ticking to make sure clean water is a top priority. The CWIA and LSLP both need a major boost in funding to fix pipes statewide. The state senate released a strong, multi-billion dollar clean water proposal, and now we need the state Assembly to follow their lead. That is why I encourage all area residents to join me in calling on Governor Cuomo and members of the State Legislature to provide at least an additional $2.5 billion for the CWIA in this year’s state budget, and to ensure that $100 million of that funding can help communities keep removing lead service lines.

Gregory Young

Fifth Ward Supervisor