A common trend more and more cities and counties are experiencing and seeing is aging sewer infrastructure. It may or may not be causing havoc but sooner and later it will if it not already doing so. Two counties in northern New York may start seeing some relief for their aging infrastructures.
It’s estimated that it will cost $500 million over the next 15 years to repair and upgrade the sewer system, sections of which are more than 100 years old. The counties plant to seek state and federal funding, borrow money and raise county sewer rates, which undoubtedly will upset a few residents.
A county executive plans to fix these old sewers and he wants the county to start taking control of the municipal sewer systems.
One way to start taking control: consolidating wastewater treatment, which was one of the recommendations of the Consensus Commission in 2017. Municipalities own 90 percent of the sewer pipes in the county, but they lack the money and the incentive to make expensive repairs on their own.
Sewer overflows are popular in this area and the county has a powerful incentive to stop raw sewage from flowing into creeks, rivers and lakes. Sewer overflows violate state environmental discharge permits and the county’s agreement with the EPA to clean up Onondaga Lake. Doing nothing to fix the problem could bring heavy fines and restrictions on new sewer connections, constraining future growth and driving away industry and jobs.
Every year, property owners suffer more than 4,000 sewer backups, which is disgusting. This is another area the county wants to start monitoring but their response has been somewhat lackluster.
Onondaga County’s sewer crisis isn’t happening in a vacuum. Across the state, drinking water and wastewater infrastructure is aging and overburdened. To repair and replace it will cost $80 billion over the next 20 years, according to a 2017 estimate.
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