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Orleans gets $3 million from state for water pipeline

Julia Botero
Orleans residents believe a NY Department of Transportation salt storate barn is to blame for their contaminated water.

It’s been a long time coming, but the town of Orleans, in Jefferson County, is on its way to fresh drinking water. The state announced this week they will provide the town with $3 million to help build a pipe to bring clean water to homes from Alexandria Bay.

Jefferson County Legislator Phil Reed said he thought he’d never see the day when Orleans, a tiny town between Clayton and Alexandria Bay, would finally get help, 

“Because we kept hearing from people, maybe next year, maybe next year, maybe next year. It was very frustrating to say the least," Reed said.

For years, Orleans residents like Reed said their tap water corroded kitchen faucets, bathroom fixtures and washing machines. Plus, high levels of salt in the water meant drinking it would make them sick. 

“When you invite people to your home and you show them just the difficulty of just making spaghetti or brushing your teeth, it hits home," Reed said.

Town leaders have long blamed the New York State Department of Transportation for allowing salt from a nearby salt storage barn to leach into the groundwater, contaminating their water over decades. Leaders devised a plan to pull water from Alexandria Bay through a pipe that would reach the affected area. The project costs $13 million, but after securing a combination of loans and grants the town was still short $3 million. Action from the state to help Orleans was stalled until this winter when members of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s staff sat down with Orleans leaders.

State Sen. Patty Ritchie (R-Oswegatchie) was there, too. 

“What we want more than anything is for the residents who live there to have clean drinking water and that is what we are working for, so the sooner we can get it done, the better it’s going to be,” Ritchie said.

The funds are part of more than $29 million in grants for water infrastructure projects across the North Country. Ritchie said she expects access to clean drinking water will make it possible for businesses to finally move into the area along Route 12.

“As potential employers looked at the area, one of the first issues that came up was whether they would have access to a water line, so this is great news for those who live there for a couple of reasons,” Ritchie said.

Ritchie said she expects the money from the state to start flowing within a month.