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Assemblyman Calls For Emergency State Funds To Address Amsterdam Crisis

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Assemblymember Angelo Santabarbara Official Website
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With hundreds of thousands of gallons of sewage having already spilled into the Mohawk River from the city of Amsterdam's wastewater treatment system, an area Assemblyman is calling on the state of New York for emergency funding.

According to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, Monday morning's sewer pipe rupture has resulted in more than 300,000 gallons of untreated waste finding its way into the river. Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara says crews are working to repair the broken pipe and have built a bypass system.  "Most times you can see where the water is coming out of the ground. With a sewage leak it leaks kinda slower and it's harder to pinpoint where it is, so the crews are looking to bypass this leak in the area where they think the leak is coming from, and then they hope to get some sort of a TV system down there to monitor the pipe and sorta find that leak. The immediate need of course is to stop the leak, which is what they're working on. The piping that's there, I understand, is also very old. It's 30, 40, 50 years old. It's clay pipe. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to repair old pipes like that. It makes more sense to replace it with the newer engineering material that we have now, the plastic PVC."

Amsterdam Mayor Michael Villa says the costs of repairs cannot be sustained by the city without outside help. "When these situations arise it really puts a burden on the taxpayer, it puts a burden on our budget, and there's only so much that we can do, and only so much that we can plan for. We're doing our due dilligence in trying to correct these issues, but this is a process that's going to take some time."

Villa has been in close contact with engineers as they've worked to create the bypass, pinpoint the leak and attempt to identify other weak spots in the pipes. He’s confident that any breaks or breaches will be found and fixed. Santabarbara brands the situation "an emergency" with a critical need for immediate funding. The city has already applied for $5 million to shore up aging infrastructure.  "The sewer system is one of those essential systems that people rely on in their homes. This is a system that needs to work. We need to rely on it just as much as we rely on our roads and our transportation system."

Sanatabarbara believes the funding will come, but warns the structural integrity of the network of aging water and sewer lines upstate also requires funding to head off future problems.  This is the second spill in Amsterdam in recent weeks: earlier this month more than 500,000 gallons of partially treated sewage spilled into the Mohawk after equipment at a city pump station failed. Again, Mayor Villa: "We are a city with a very aging infrastructure, as many cities and communities around us are. So it's Amsterdam today, but you'll be calling another mayor in another location anytime soon."

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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