Updates to the aging infrastructure of the Oneida County Sewer District were meant to take a total of seven years. Our Sarah Blazonis tells us why it will be at least ten more before they're complete.
ONEIDA COUNTY, N.Y. -- The nine municipalities that sit along the Sauquoit Creek Sewer Line saw firsthand during this year's heavy rains how excess water can affect the creek's pump station.
"It just flows wherever it wants to flow. So, if you have weak infrastructure, those points become vulnerable to water flowing into storm sewers," said Mayor Donald Ryan of the Village of New Hartford.
That sanitary sewer overflow has led to sewage pollution of the Mohawk River and a State DEC order mandated the county make improvements to the pump station to eliminate that problem by 2014. County and DEC officials now say they'll need seven more years to complete the job, which involves more than pump station repairs alone.
"Through New Hartford, through Whitestown, through all those villages, through the City of Utica and down through our station, it's fixing all the sewer lines heading into the pump station and beyond," said Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente Jr.
The county has secured $25 million in funds to put toward the project, but isn't sure where the rest of the money's going to come from to pay the bill that could cost anywhere from $150 million to $180 million. DEC officials say simply agreeing to the new order on consent could help with that.
The DEC says it can help advocate for federal funding that becomes available since repairs are mandated and essential for the economic future of the Mohawk Valley.
"This is one of those elements that a company looking to locate here is going to say, 'Are we going to be able to get rid of our wastewater?' With this order and the implementation of it, the answer will be, 'Yes,'" said Judy Drabicki, director of DEC Region 6.
Residents along the sewer line are already paying a fee to help with costs, but the uncertainty of funding means future charges are also up in the air. Work is expected to be complete by the end of 2021.