Troy’s City Council gets update from administration on lead pipe replacement and current situation at Eddy’s Lane Pump Station

Troy Mayor Carmella Mantello updated the City Council on a number of efforts at the recent Finance Committee meeting.

As the city works toward its goal of inventorying and replacing all lead-contaminated water service lines, 48.6 percent of water lines have been logged in for just over a year, according to the Republican. When she took office in January, more than 45 percent of the lines had been inventoried through efforts by former Mayor Patrick Madden and the city's Public Utilities Department.

Mantello, who has committed to replacing all contaminated service lines in her first four-year term, says 20 lines have been replaced this year.

“The inventory process has not slowed down. Our people are still walking in the doors, but remember, the first 50 percent, we knew that was the low-hanging fruit,” Mantello said. “Now it's hitting people, as we discussed last night, basically, 'I have a newer house, you know, my house doesn't have lead pipes, it has copper, I don't need to be part of this inventory.' Even if they know that the plumbing in their home may be lead-free. We need these people and these are the crucial ones.”

The Republican says inventorying the next 50 percent will require more legwork. To achieve her goal, Mantello says she will continue an aggressive public awareness campaign by going door-to-door and attending public events. Exposure to the element has been linked to several adverse health effects, including developmental delays in children.

“Our goal is 100 percent by October; If we even get to 85% there, I think we’re in very good shape,” Mantello said.

Last year, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed the Lead Pipe Right to Know Act, which requires municipalities to inventory and publish their water supply pipeline inventory. Municipalities have until October 16 to complete a guideline inventory.

Mantello says the city hired a part-time fellow and applied for several grants to support the project.

Resident and lawyer Greg Campbell-Cohen warns of rising costs as more municipalities begin replacement work.

“I would just encourage the council to really think about a bond, even if you know you're expecting grants down the road; just to have that liquidity to keep these programs running quickly,” Campbell-Cohen said. “Because we currently have a very narrow window of time in which Troy actually has an advantage in terms of getting the senior service line replacement program underway. And the window is closed. It just has to be done because every city has to do this.”

Which begs the question: Can public funds be used for private water pipes? Rep. John McDonald, a Democrat from the 108th District, says there are potential legal challenges. McDonald tells WAMC he is working with the state auditor on the matter.

“Here we have this dynamic where some local governments are making this decision and throwing caution to the wind,” McDonald said. “Other local governments are still waiting for more clarification. I'm working with our attorney in the Assembly and we're actually reaching out across the country and other states and working together through our national associations to see if we can do something better at the state level to get that clarification.”

The mayor and her administration also provided an update on the situation at the Eddy's Lane pumping station, where a 30-inch water pipe was corroded and pumps and water pipes were leaking.

City Engineer Russ Reeves says work is not progressing as quickly as originally planned because of a shortage of necessary parts.

Reeves said the work had to be done in stages because it would take more than two years to get a replacement line for the pump, which serves about 135,000 people in eight communities.

In the meantime, Reeves says a carbon fiber cladding will be installed – a cost-effective solution.

“We are currently conducting an evaluation to determine the most practical approach to servicing this pump,” Reeves said.

For her part, Democratic City Council President Sue Steele says the issue has been overhyped.

“I'm glad they addressed the leak, but I doubt whether it was of emergency human proportions,” Steele said.

The next city council meeting is April 4th.

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