January 16, 2017
Albany, NY

Governor Cuomo Announces More Than $2 Million to Upgrade Drinking Water Systems in Auburn and Owasco

Governor Cuomo Announces More Than $2 Million to Upgrade Drinking Water Systems in Auburn and Owasco

Upgrades Will Remove Toxins Associated with Blue Green Algal Blooms Found in Owasco Lake

Efforts Will Ensure Clean Drinking Water for Nearly 50,000 New Yorkers

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that New York State has committed more than $2 million dollars towards the design, engineering, and construction of upgrades to the drinking water treatment systems in the City of Auburn and Town of Owasco. Both systems draw water from Owasco Lake which recently has been impaired by cyanotoxins produced by harmful blue-green algae blooms. Together, these two public systems serve nearly 50,000 people in Cayuga County.

"Clean drinking water is a critical component of building healthy communities and this administration is working hard to address emerging threats that place it in jeopardy," Governor Cuomo said. "This funding will play a critical role in helping address the contamination issues facing the Central New York communities that draw their drinking water from Owasco Lake."

Some species of algae produce toxins harmful to people and animals. Last summer, cyanotoxins produced by blue-green algae blooms in Owasco Lake were detected in finished drinking water for the first time in New York State. In response, the New York State Department of Health worked closely with the water systems during the fall to monitor levels of the cyanotoxins every day for three weeks to assure that they did not exceed EPA's health advisory levels for young children and people with pre-existing health problems. Additionally, the Department of Health provided technical guidance to the water systems on temporary changes they could make to help lower the levels of cyanotoxins.

New York State is now providing up to $150,000 to support studies being conducted by the City of Auburn and Town of Owasco that assess the costs and benefits of various treatments strategies, including powdered activated carbon, intake pipe extensions and ozone oxidation. An additional $2 million will be provided to implement the strategies identified by both studies.

New York State Health Commissioner Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, "Clean drinking water is a precious resource, and under Governor Cuomo’s decisive leadership we’re safeguarding it for generations to come. This funding, coupled with the historic commitment in the Governor’s State of the State address, ensures New York will continue to be a national leader when proactively addressing water quality concerns."

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "Protecting water quality in the Finger Lakes region is a top priority for New York State and through Governor Cuomo's leadership, this new funding will bolster our efforts to address Harmful Algal Blooms in Owasco Lake. We look forward to working with all partners through the Finger Lakes Water Hub to take the lessons we learn in Owasco Lake and advance the necessary water quality improvements throughout the entire Finger Lakes watershed."

Cayuga County Legislature Chair Keith Batman said, "Thousands of Central New Yorkers rely on Owasco Lake as a source for drinking water, making the discovery of this contamination a real threat to our communities. With this funding secured, Cayuga County residents can now be assured that there is a clear path forward. We thank Governor Cuomo for his leadership in addressing this problem head on and always working tirelessly to protect the health of communities throughout New York State."

Auburn Mayor Michael Quill said, "The significant investment made by the Governor to protect Owasco Lake assures the men, women and children of Central New York that toxins will be eliminated and clean drinking water will be available to everyone across the region. I commend Governor Cuomo for taking immediate action, assessing our water concerns and providing the funding and assistance necessary to keep our communities safe. Thanks to these water system upgrades, residents will be protected from pollutants and have access to clean, quality drinking water throughout Central New York."

Town of Owasco Supervisor Edward Wagner said, "The safety and health of the residents of Owasco is our utmost priority and through the Governor’s leadership, we now have the support needed to complete studies that will pinpoint the best treatment plan and upgrade our water systems as soon as possible. I thank the Governor and the Department of Health for protecting tens of thousands of Central New Yorkers, and ensuring future generations will have access to clean water for years to come."

This funding builds upon Governor Cuomo’s on-going efforts to ensure that current and future generations of New Yorkers have access to clean water. In February 2016, Governor Cuomo launched the Water Quality Rapid Response Team to swiftly identify and address drinking water quality issues across the state and in October 2016, a $600,000 study was initiated to identify key sources of pollution in Owasco Lake. In conjunction with the study, a Finger Lakes Water Hub was also launched to provide focused expert staff to study algal blooms and undertake pollution reduction projects in the Owasco Lake watershed and the other Finger Lakes.


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