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Tonko Promotes $8 Billion Drinking Water Bill At Albany Med

Capital Region Congressman Paul Tonko stopped by Albany Medical Center Tuesday morning to headline a press conference on water systems and infrastructure.

The city of Albany alone has 317 miles of water pipes, some of which are 135 years old.

Tonko was in town as part his ongoing effort to raise awareness about the need for investment in public water systems.  The Democrat noted that 86 percent of U.S. households rely on public water supplies.  "Here in the Northeast this becomes incredibly important, because we're some of the oldest infrastructure going. With it are many many concerns because we've underinvested over the last decades."

Nationwide, Tonko says leaking pipes lose an estimated 7 billion gallons of clean drinking water every day, there are more than 700 water main breaks every day, and there may be as many as 10 million lead-contaminated service lines in use.

Tonko is promoting  the Drinking Water System Improvement Act of 2017.  "H.R. 3387, a legislative bill called AQUA, that we began with, that would revamp the SRF, the state revolving fund. That's the vehicle by which Washington sends out dollars to the 50 state capitals and they send those dollars into their communities in their given state.  That has not been re-authorized in some 21 years. And so we not only re-authorized it, but we doubled the commitment made by Washington to make certain that we have, at least, a step in the right direction."

Tonko is encouraged by progress made to date: he expects the bill will be addressed by the full House in September, then move on to the Senate.

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan says clean water is an important component of economic growth and development.   "And I remind our residents all the time, who often grumble about the large number of tax-exempt facilities we have here in the city of Albany, and I remind them that those facilities are NOT exempt from paying for water."

Sheehan says water presents an income opportunity for the city. Albany Med used almost 77 million gallons of water at its main site in 2016.  "I wanna thank Albany Medical Center for being a large user of our water and we take your faith in us very seriously, and we are making investments every day to ensure that our drinking water is safe and that we are able to supply water at the right pressures to our customers."

Karen Seward, who oversees facilities engineering at AMC, led Tonko on a tour through Albany Med's on-site chilled water facility. "Clearly, clean water is fundamental essential and critical element that enables us to carry out our mission, of caring for the millions of people who rely upon us for their medical care. And just as clearly, the lack of access to abundant amounts of clean water would create extraordinary challenges for us."

Tonko previously visited drinking water systems in Schenectady, Delanson, Altamont, Albany and elsewhere. He met with Troy Mayor Patrick Madden in early 2016 to discuss that city’s major water main break.

Drinking Water By the Numbers:

·         Albany, NY alone has 317 miles of pipes, some of them as much as 135 years old

·         86% of U.S. households rely on public water supplies.

·         Leaking pipes lose an estimated 7 billion gallons of clean drinking water every day.

·         There are more than 700 water main breaks every day.

·         There may be as many as 10 million lead service lines in use.

·         In 2013, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave America’s water infrastructure a D grade.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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