Thursday, April 12, 2007

Flash! Using Mohawk River As Open Sewer Isn't Healthy

Yesterday an Oneida County official quoted in the O-D stated that the sewage flowing into the Mohawk River wasn't a "health risk". It appears that opinion has been revised.

The hundreds of gallons of sewage that have been pumped into the Mohawk River from a Yorkville pump station during the last several years could affect humans, animals and the environment, state and local officials said.

"There isn't any question health risks are involved," said county Health Director Nick DeRosa. "In short, any discharge from the municipal sewers is raw sewage before treatment and any discharge into the streets or body of water is naturally a health concern."

I guess someone realized how ridiculous the "feces in the water really isn't dangerous" spin sounded in print. Oh, and it's not "hundreds of gallons" of sewage. It's hundreds of millions of gallons annually, according to yesterday's story. If the figures in there are correct over half a billion gallons of sewage have been dumped into the Mohawk River and it's connecting waterways, including the Erie Canal, in just the past two years.

County officials are hoping to negotiate an agreement with the state DEC, allowing them to conduct a three-year study to see how bad the sewage problem is and how much it will cost to fix.

The estimated price of the study: $3 million to $5 million, said Steven Devan, county commissioner of Water Quality and Water Pollution Control.

Unless I missed something, we already have a good idea how bad the sewage problem is- 266 million gallons in 2005 alone- and how much it's going to cost to fix it. There doesn't appear to be much debate on that at all. Waiting another three years will just mean another billion gallons of sewage dumped into the river. Billion. With a "b".

Are Oneida County officials seriously suggesting they're comfortable with that?

If they are, I can pretty much guarantee there are going to be some political consequences. I'm not a public relations expert, but I'm not seeing how anyone can defend not doing everything in their power to fix this problem now. The political ads practically write themselves:

VOICEOVER: When millions of gallons of sewage were flowing into our water, Generic Politician didn't think it was a problem. They wanted to study the problem instead of fixing it.

VIDEO: Montage, cute kids splashing in the water, families fishing, couples paddling their canoes down the river...and they're all surrounded by rafts of toilet paper and feces.

Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente said if the state allows the time to conduct the study, the county will figure out a way to obtain the $66 million in funding, if that's what is necessary.

That funding could come from places including state and federal grants, bonding and water users, he said.

Ah, it appears we have our first test case. I know Mr. Picente isn't responsible for this problem, but if he actually wants to win this fall's election he has to forget trying to foist off this "study" as an adequate response. I can guarantee with 100% certainty that he will be pounded on this issue until he just throws in the towel. It wouldn't take all that much effort to establish him as Tony "Toilet Paper" Picente. Heck, I'm not the only blog that would work to make sure every internet search on his name would bring up reams of writing about his love for sewage and dirty, nasty, disease infested water.

On the other hand, if he asserts his leadership now he could come out of this as the hero instead of the villain. Get everyone at the table, from the public works guys at every municipality using the defective pumping station to Mike Arcuri in Washington, and solve the problem. It's not only the right thing to do, but a huge political coup for everyone involved. Everyone gets to run as the savior that gave us clean water, everyone gets reelected, and everyone's happy! Huzzah!