Today we begin our year’s coverage of the numerous and varied water infrastructure challenges faced by local communities in states all over the U.S. by highlighting the situation in Syracuse, New York.
Syracuse experienced 372 water main breaks in 2015 – more than one every day – and so far in 2016, nearly two a day. The age of the city’s water pipes, most of which are more than 100 years old and some of which were built in the 19th century, plus the extreme cold the region experienced in the last couple of years combined to cause a record-breaking number of breaks in 2014 and 2015, and the pace is expected to continue. The city’s mayor Stephanie Miner recently said that if the city had an extra billion dollars, she would use it to replace all 550 miles of water mains that continue to burst all year. Replacing those pipes is estimated to cost $726 million.
These water main breaks have proven enormously disruptive. Restaurants and other commercial businesses, offices, and schools have been forced to close, residents have had to boil water before drinking due to contamination, and commuters and other residents have confronted road closures and detours on a regular basis. One break that forced the closure of two city streets affected graduation ceremonies at Fayetteville-Manlius High School in June last year.
Mayor Miner has asked New York Governor Andrew Cuomo for State assistance in coming up with money for needed repairs, but no State aid has yet materialized, and both Miner and and U.S. Congressman Paul Tonko have called on the federal government to make more resources available to cities to support water infrastructure. Unfortunately Syracuse is just one of thousands of local localities in desperate need of those federal resources, and we at CWC will keep pushing to see that they are directed towards those communities in the year ahead.