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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 15, 2009

SCHUMER, ARCURI PUSH NYS TO PRIORITIZE FUNDING FOR ONEIDA COUNTY AND UTICA TO REPAIR SEWER SYSTEMS - PROTECT RATEPAYERS, LOCAL ECONOMY AND ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH OF ENTIRE REGION


State Will Soon Decide How To Spend New Federal Water-Sewer Money; Pending Oneida County Upgrade Under State Mandate Could Cost $158 Million and Utica Upgrade As Much As $152 Million

Schumer and Arcuri Fought to Include Unprecedented Amount of Funding to Localities in Form of Grants Instead of Loans to Upgrade Aging Water Infrastructure Into Final Interior Bill - New York Will Receive $322 Million

Sky-High Cost to Fix Ailing Infrastructure System Will Place Enormous Economic Burden on Homeowners and Businesses in Oneida County and Utica During Economic Crunch

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Congressman Michael Arcuri today urged New York State grant funding to Oneida County's sewer district and Utica’s sewer system when they decide funding for projects through the federally funded Clean Water State Revolving Fund.   The aging sewer systems in Oneida County and in Utica are in desperate need of repair and threaten the economic and environmental health of the entire region.  Under state order, the cost to fix the Oneida County sewer systems is estimated at over $150 million, with a similar amount to upgrade the Utica system. Paying for the projects would place a crushing burden on homeowners, ratepayers and businesses.

 

In October, Senator Schumer and Congressman Arcuri reversed decades of federal neglect and successfully inserted language into the final Interior Appropriations Bill to provide a billion dollars in grants – not loans – to financially strapped communities across the country to repair and replace aging water and sewer infrastructure.  This was in addition to hundreds of millions Schumer and Arcuri delivered to the state received via the stimulus bill to fund vital state water-sewer projects. In the final bill, Congress allocated more than $3.5 billion to replace and repair aging sewer and water infrastructure; also, no less than 30 percent of the funds will be made available as grants instead of loans, directing more than $100 million in grants to localities across New York State. Funding the upgrades will create jobs, stimulate economic growth and improve the environmental health of the region.

 

In an effort to protect taxpayers from bearing the entire burden for the cost of fixing the sewer-water system, and to protect the economic and environmental health of the entire region, Schumer and Arcuri are urging the state to make these projects top priorities as they distribute the funds from water and sewer funding bill that recently passed congress.

 

"It is vital that we provide resources to help Oneida and Utica upgrade their sewer systems so that cash-strapped residents are not forced to bear the burden of significant rate increases,” Schumer said. “Congressman Arcuri and I were able to secure a record amount of federal money for New York State, which will see a record-breaking amount of water and sewer funding next year – much of it to be given out to localities in grants, and not loans – and Oneida County and Utica must have their fair share.  Making these investments now will create jobs, ensure long-term economic competitiveness, and provide clean drinking water to residents.”

 

“Oneida County and Utica are required to make these sewer upgrades, but rate-payers in these communities simply cannot afford these necessary projects alone,” Arcuri said.  “Working together with Senator Schumer and local officials, I will continue to fight to make sure that these projects receive funding from any possible source to begin these vital upgrades and protect the area’s infrastructure for years to come.”

 

In February of 2007, Oneida County was ordered by the state to immediately fix its sewer systems because heavy rain or snow thaw causes the system to overflow and discharge untreated sewage in the Mohawk River. Recently, the Oneida County Sewer District entered into a consent order with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to improve its system by 2014.  This will entail rehabilitating the sanitary sewer collection system, and upgrading the Sauquoit Creek Pumping Station, forcemain, and water pollution control plant.  After a complete study of the problem, the cost for repairing the system had soared  from $66 million to at least $150 million. Much of this cost could fall to the ratepayers in the sewer district  -- many of whom are already slammed by high taxes and a severe economic downturn. In addition, the cost to the County could pose a threat to the overall economic health entire region, impeding growth and jobs across the Mohawk Valley.

 

Additionally, like many older cities, the City of Utica has a combined sewer overflow (CSO) system.  During heavy rains, the system can overflow, discharging untreated sewage into the Mohawk River, posing environmental and public-health problems for the surrounding communities.  The City is working to separate its storm-water and sanitary sewer systems and the estimated cost is another $150 million.

 

In a push to bring much-needed federal dollars to the project, Schumer and Arcuri today wrote a personal letter to Environmental Facilities Corporation Acting President Matthew Millea, asking him to prioritize the Oneida sewer-water projects on the list of projects that could be funded with money from the NYS Environmental Facilities Corporation.  Federal water and sewer funding is provided to the EFC, which then chooses the projects that will receive funding. 

 

In the letter they wrote, “These sewer infrastructure projects are well-planned, shovel-ready, and critical to the investment in each municipality’s future. As you review projects on the state’s intended use plan, we urge that Oneida County and Utica’s vital sewer infrastructure improvement projects be given the utmost consideration.”     

 

A full copy of the letter is below

 

 

Matthew Millea

Acting President

Environmental Facilities Corporation

NYS Environmental Facilities Corporation  
625 Broadway    
Albany, NY 12207-2997  

 

Dear Mr. Millea:

 

We write today to urge that Oneida County’s Phase 1 and Phase 2A and the City of Utica’s sewer improvement projects be funded under the Clean and Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund, which is funded via federally secured monies. Decisions for funding are fast approaching and, as we have in the past, we feel that EFC should fund both projects, as they are essential to the health of the region’s and the state’s economy, public health, and the environment. These sewer infrastructure projects are well-planned, shovel-ready, and critical to the investment in each municipality’s future.

 

In October, Congressman Arcuri and I successfully inserted language into the final Interior Appropriations Bill to provide over a billion dollars in grants – not loans – to financially strapped communities across the country to repair and replace aging water and sewer infrastructure. In the bill, which was signed into law, more than $300 million will go to New York State. No less than 30 percent of these funds will be made available as grants, directing more than $100 million in grants to localities across New York State. These vital federal funds are in addition to hundreds of millions we secured for New York State water-sewer projects via the federal stimulus package, which itself reversed decades of neglect for critical water-sewer infrastructure upgrades.

 

Oneida County and Utica were ordered by the state to immediately fix its sewer systems because heavy rain or snow thaw causes the system to overflow and discharge untreated sewage into the Mohawk River. Repairing and improving sewer infrastructure is fundamental to this region, but the cost for repairing these systems is estimated to run a staggering $150 million for each project. This cost is simply too much to bear for local homeowners, businesses and ratepayers. If Oneida and Utica do not receive assistance, the cost burden will rest almost entirely on the ratepayers, creating a mountain of debt for a community already struggling to pay the bills during this severe economic downturn. That is why, to the greatest degree possible, funding in the form of grants would significantly help these communities.

 

In particlur, Oneida County’s Phase 1 Sewer System Improvement Project (CWSRF No. C6-6070-08-00) requires $5,300,000 to cover sewer manhole rehabilitation to reduce inflow and infiltration of outside water that overflows the system. The County will also undertake right-of-way access improvements such as tree removal, brush removal, surface stabilization, and security enhancements. Oneida County’s Phase 2A (CWSRF No. C6-6070-08-01) calls for $20,500,000 to build on Phase 1’s improvements, targeting sewer rehabilitation in the Villages of Clayville, New Hartford, Paris, and Whitestown. As part of this phase of work, the County will also conduct a hydraulic capacity evaluation of the Sauquoit Creek Pumping Station, and perform a physical condition and capacity assessment of its Water Pollution Control Plant. And the City of Utica’s Phase A2 (CWSRF No. C6-6076-05-01) calls for $3,200,000 in upgrades to the Highland Trunk Sewer Area, including replacement of the sewers along Erie Street between Inner and Downer Avenues, and north along Downer Avenue to eliminate combined sewer overflows.  This phase of the project will also separate the sewer lines along Oriskany Street West, eastward to Platt Street.

 

Again, as you review projects on the state’s intended use plan, we urge that Oneida County’s and Utica’s vital sewer infrastructure improvement projects be given the utmost consideration. 

 

We look forward to hearing from you on this very important issue.

 

 

                                                                Sincerely,

 

Charles E. Schumer                                                                                           Michael Arcuri

United States Senator                                                                                        Member of Congress

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