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Governor's office assures Orleans residents help for contaminated water on its way

Julia Botero
WRVO News File Photo
Orleans resident and Jefferson County Legislator Phil Reed's tap water has such high levels of sodium, his pipes and water fixtures are corroded.

The town of Orleans, between Clayton and Alexandria Bay, may be on its way to clean drinking water. Members of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s staff along with the State Department of Health and Department of Environmental Conservation met with Orleans officials Tuesday in Albany.

For years, homeowners in Orleans have complained about high levels of salt and lead in their drinking water. Town officials in Orleans blame the Department of Transportation’s salt storage barn for allowing road salt to leach into the groundwater. They’ve asked the state for help several times and heard little in response.

“We deserve fresh water just like anyone else does,” said Phil Reed, one of those homeowners. He’s also a Jefferson County Legislator and he was at the meeting Tuesday. He says it feels good to finally be heard by the Governor.

“When we got together and told our story and what we were going through I think that story got told very effectively and I think it played a part in bringing awareness,” Reed said.

Leo Morales with Cuomo’s office said in a statement, “We have assembled a multi-agency effort committed to finding immediate solutions to ensure that the community’s drinking water is safe.”

Town officials have worked to designate a new water district for the affected area in Orleans. They need about $3 million more in grant money to build a water line from Orleans to Alexandria Bay. The line would provide clean drinking water to homes along Route 12.

Morales added the agencies will work with Orleans officials to find funding for the project. 

State Sen. Pattie Ritchie (R-Oswegatchie) was also at the meeting. She says the state is pushing up the new grant cycle for state water projects to help Orleans.

“I think we are all on the same page that it’s a priority to get this project and the paperwork done as soon as possible and make sure that the water district and the pipes are put in and completed,” Ritchie said.

Phil Reed says he’s cautiously optimistic the state will follow through. "We’re going to be watching to make sure this thing keeps moving along. We’ve gained momentum and we’re not going to lose it.”

Senator Ritchie said in the meantime state agencies and the Governor’s office will discuss short term emergency solutions for Orleans residents.