Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Along The Mighty Mohawk A Fearsome Fecal Fountain Flows

It appears Mr. Hanky and his friends are having a group swim in the Mohawk River, courtesy of Oneida County.

The problem: An Oneida County sewage pumping station in Yorkville has been spilling untreated waste into the Mohawk River. How much? About 266 million gallons in 2005 alone.

While county officials say there are no worries about health risks, the Department of Environmental Conservation is clamping down on future development until Oneida County makes the costly fix of an outdated sewage system.

Since I happen to live downstream from Yorkville I'm curious how 266 million gallons of untreated waste don't constitute "health risks". I'm even more interested in finding out how much human waste is in the river I canoe in, and by extension the Erie Canal. 'Cause, you know, we just spent a couple of hundred million dollars worth of tax money developing those waterways as tourist attractions. Call me crazy, but I don't think fecal flotillas are something tourists like to see.

Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente's reaction: Extreme disappointment and many questions.

In an interview Tuesday night, Picente said he's not prepared to sign the state Department of Environmental Conservation's consent order and might seek revisions. While he said he wants to fix the sewage problem, he said he's concerned about the scope of the state's remedy, its cost and the tight timetable.

"We're trying to resolve the problem, but I'm not going to bankrupt the county in the process," Picente said.

He expressed concern that the order prohibits new sewer hookups in a region seeking to grow its economy.

"Why would I sign an order that does that?" Picente asked.

The county executive said he is going to meet with the town and village leaders affected next Wednesday to discuss a course of action.

I hope that course of action is "How can we fix this as quickly as possible?", because anything else is simply unacceptable. Forgive my bluntness, but my right to paddle down the Mohawk without having to dodge your "brown trout" trumps any right you might have to yet another big box store.

The decision is another obstacle to economic growth in a region that was among the nation's leaders in population and job loss during the 1990s.

Besides the sewer problem, a protracted dispute between the Mohawk Valley Water Authority and the state Canal Corporation has prevented extension of water districts to locations in central and western Oneida County.

Before Oneida County worries about extending it's water pipes I would suggest it pay more attention to it's sewage pipes. I know there are quite a few campaign that want access to that cheap water from Herkimer County, but this sewage issue is totally separate and far more important. After all, why would the residents of Herkimer County divert millions of gallons of clean water to the west when you're just going to send it back down the Mohawk River contaminated with sewage?