Environmentalists, residents urge Poughkeepsie to speed up lead pipe removal

A report released on June 14 by the environmental advocacy nonprofit Environmental Advocates of New York called the current situation a 'crisis.'

Jonathan Gordon

Jul 7, 2023, 12:27 AM

Updated 289 days ago


Concerned residents, lawmakers and environmental advocacy groups are calling on the city of Poughkeepsie to reduce the cost and speed up the removal of thousands of lead service lines buried below the city.
"Until we remove the lead from the system. We're playing Russian roulette with our health and well-being," said Poughkeepsie resident Cooper Miller.
A report released on June 14 by the environmental advocacy nonprofit Environmental Advocates of New York called the current situation a 'crisis.'
Poughkeepsie received a $544,000 grant from the state to help cover the costs of lead pipe removal in 2018.
The report states the city has spent about $400,000 but only replaced 14 lines between then and last year.
That's about $28,000 per replacement which is significantly higher than the state's average estimate of $10,000 per project, according to the report.
City of Poughkeepsie Mayor Marc Nelson said the state's estimate is way off and is writing to the state to have officials update the data to reflect the actual costs.
While Nelson acknowledged the city has been paying more than other municipalities, he argued inflation among other factors played a significant role.
He also noted the city has only done full line replacements when other municipalities do partial repairs.
A full-line replacement is generally considered a safer way to do this work because it reduces the chances of water contamination.
"The city of Poughkeepsie's implementation of that grant program was actually the best in the state," said Poughkeepsie Mayor Marc Nelson.
Nelson took exception to several other parts of the report as well.
The report indicates one in 10 children in the city have elevated levels of lead in their blood.
Nelson does not refute the tests but believes lead paint in the city's older homes also plays a factor in the results and called it misleading to only assume it's related to the water.
Nelson met with the report's author Environmental Advocates of New York for an hour on Thursday to discuss some of the "high-level findings."
On Thursday, that group and others called on the city and common council to pass the "Get the Lead Out" law that would require the city to remove all of its lead pipes within 10 years, ban partial replacements, and cover the full costs.
"I'm concerned about the equity aspects of how you implement something like this even if you get beyond the money," said Nelson.
Nelson is calling on state and federal leaders to help the city come up with the additional money needed to move work along more quickly.
State Assemblyman Jonathan Jacobson who represents Poughkeepsie backs the proposed legislation.
"It is not enough to know about a problem. Action must follow," said state assemblyman Jonathan Jacobson.
The "Get the Lead Out" legislation is likely to go before the council in early August.

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