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Advocates and lawmakers continue calls for lead pipe replacement projects

Rob Hayes addressing a row of reporters, urging Governor Kathy Hochul to include funding for lead pipe replacement in her next budget
Samantha Simmons
Rob Hayes addressing a row of reporters, urging Governor Kathy Hochul to include funding for lead pipe replacement in her next budget

Advocates and lawmakers continue to urge New York Governor Kathy Hochul to include lead pipe funding and legislation in her next budget.

To mark lead poisoning prevention week, advocates and lawmakers spoke at the state capitol Wednesday about replacing lead-contaminated water supply pipes. High levels of lead in drinking water can cause slowed growth, brain damage, learning and behavior problems, and hearing and speech problems.

Rob Hayes, the Director of Clean Water for Environmental Advocates NY, says nearly 500,000 pipes throughout the state are contaminated.

“That action, digging these pipes out of the grounds, has huge public health benefits, it is a great job creator and it is really a win-win for our environment and our economy,” Hayes said.

Advocates want Hochul to include an additional $100 million in her next budget to begin replacing service lines and sign the Lead Pipe Right to Know Act, which would require public water systems to inventory their service lines and make the location and number of lead pipes accessible to the public.

A request for comment from Hochul’s office was not returned.

Advocates say the legislation is multifaceted. Josh Klainberg is the Senior Vice President of the New York League of Conservation Voters. He says when residents are informed, they can make temporary fixes to protect themselves and their families.

“Lawmakers and decisionmakers in this building have a right to know because when they know how many pipes are there, they'll have a better estimate of how much the cost would be and how to finance it all,” Klainberg said.

State Assemblywoman Pat Fahy of the 109th District agrees…

“You can't address what you don't know.”

In Troy, lead pipe replacement has just begun amid local outcry.

Earlier this year, residents and advocates questioned Mayor Patrick Madden about why the city hadn’t spent $500,000 in state grant funding to replace aging lead service lines. Madden, a Democrat, told WAMC in February that the city hadn’t spent the money because the funding would only be a drop in the bucket to fix the problem.

Troy resident and advocate for lead-free communities Jona Favreau says last year, when pregnant with her second child, she learned her son, then 2 years old, had high levels of lead in his blood.

“As a parent, the guilt is there,” Favreau said. “You want to do anything to protect your children, and then to find out the water is what's making them sick or have this potential long-term growth, disabilities or just impacts on his on his development, the guilt is there.”

Favreau’s second son was born with heightened levels of lead in his blood, which she attributes to consuming contaminated water during her pregnancy. Work began this month to replace the pipes on her street.

“As a resident, as a mother I felt unheard for months with all of my emails and phone calls being unanswered,” Favreau said. “But once I went to City Council, I think they realized that it wasn't just me. I had a whole community of people and activists and colleagues behind me. That's when response started. And I have to admit, since then it's been a pleasure to work with them.”

The next legislative session begins in January with budget-making following soon after.

Samantha joined the WAMC staff after interning during her final semester at the University at Albany. A Troy native, she looks forward to covering what matters most to those in her community. Aside from working, Samantha enjoys spending time with her friends, family, and cat. She can be reached by phone at (518)-465-5233 Ext. 211 or by email at ssimmons@wamc.org.