. . . The total tab officials say is necessary to prevent pollution of the Mohawk River: $158 million. Government leaders searching for funding so far have come up empty, and that would mean adding an additional $600 a year to every user’s sewer tax bill.This editorial is so far off the mark that it is not funny. While the area's aging infrastructure is an expensive problem that every community will eventually have to deal with, it is not 'the problem' here. 'The problem' here that will cost $158 million to fix was a VIOLATION OF LAW.
That’s not acceptable. While taxpayers will have to shoulder some of the cost to upgrade this necessary service, leaders at the state and federal level will need to do what we elect them to do — find grants and/or other revenue sources to help.
The problem is the sewer district’s aging infrastructure. During heavy rain and snow melts, storm water floods into the sanitary system and forces raw sewage into the river. In 2007, the sewer district was slapped with a consent order by the state Department of Environmental Conservation requiring that problems along the Sauquoit Creek line be fixed by Oct. 31, 2014. . . .
When the Federal Government set up the Clean Water Act, it recognized that older communities (such as Utica and our Villages) that had combined stormwater-sanitary sewers could never afford to retrofit their systems to the modern standard of separate lines for sanitary waste and storm water. Looking at the cost-benefit ratio, lawmakers allowed for Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) to exist that would spill very dilute waste from these older systems into the river during severe rain events as opposed to backing it up into people's homes. Over time, these older systems would gradually be brought under more stringent standards, hopefully at a pace that the communities could afford. The law made an exception to preserve the finances of older communities.
However, that exception was lost when the County allowed new separated waste lines to connect to the older systems. While these actions permitted Oneida County and certain suburban jurisdictions to greatly expand their tax bases with new 'growth' on the cheap, they also resulted in the Yorkville CSO being reclassified as an illegal Sanitary Sewer Overflow. Now because they no longer qualify for special treatment under the Clean Water Act, suburban jurisdictions must now bear the cost that the law had hoped they would avoid. The Villages, unfortunately, which saw relatively little 'growth' will now bear the brunt of these costs.
Those running our County sewer system, and suburban planners, should have seen this coming. Either they were blind to it, or they were more interested in fostering 'growth' than environmental protection. Regardless . . .
Is it appropriate to expect grants to pay for local incompetence? That is what The Observer-Dispatch seems to be asking for. . . .
And is it appropriate that we the public who will pay for this keep the same people in charge? That is something we need to decide between now and November.