BUFFALO, NY – Today State Senate Candidate Amber Small unveiled her policy proposal “Cutting the Crap [out of our water]” to offer solutions to clean up waterways and sewers throughout Western New York.
“Cleaning up Albany has been a pillar of my campaign, but we also need to make sure we are cleaning up things here at home as well. It is uncomfortable for us to admit that the beach closings and contaminants in our waterways that we experience on a regular basis are in large part from human sewage.” Small remarked. “This is not a problem we can afford to sit on any longer and I am offering a plan with real solutions.”
Standing in front of Hoyt Lake in Delaware Park, a site of continual contamination, Small released a policy paper detailing the problem and outlining several solutions to ensure clean waterways throughout Erie County and New York State.
Combined sewer systems (CSS) found in timeworn cities and villages collect runoff, sewage & wastewater and bring them to publically owned water treatment facilities. However, when this water exceeds maximum capacity – most commonly during large rainstorms – the combined sewer overflow (CSO) spills directly into lakes, streams, and rivers. These bodies of water, now contaminated with CSO, are primary sources of drinking water in Western New York. At 1,825, Western New York currently has over seven times more annual sewage overflows compared to the next highest region in the state, the Hudson Valley, which has 234 annual sewage overflows.
Small proposes a number of ways to alleviate the problem. Her practical solutions include: recommending an amendment to the New York State Smart Growth law to mandate analysis on sewer infrastructure; creating short term sites such as retention ponds and additional basins to keep excess sewage out of our drinking water; and developing a financial mechanism for communities struggling with CSO issues to assist in financing investment in new sewer systems.
Small commented: “Western New Yorkers should not have to choose between even higher taxes and drinking water that quite literally has crap in it. We need to fix this problem, and we need to fix it now.
The benefit of investing in new sewer systems is not limited to ensuring water quality. Improving aging infrastructure reduces leaks and water loss, conserving eco-systems and allowing communities to become less dependent on water from outside sources. Good paying jobs result from these infrastructure upgrades and this investment that positively impacts our entire community.
Small is not alone in calling for solutions. “Our waterfront is our most valuable natural resource, and the restoration of it needs to be both a regional and state priority,” said Senator Tim Kennedy. He continued on: “throughout my time in office, I’ve worked collaboratively with the Town of Cheektowaga and City of Buffalo to take a cohesive approach to modernizing and improving our region’s aging sewer systems, to secure funding in order to take strides towards achieving that goal, and ultimately to clean up one of our region's most polluted waterways: Scajaquada Creek.”
Beyond posing an immediate health risk to people living in the area, the outdated sewer system also harms local ecosystems. Lake Erie is frequently in violation of New York State water quality standards as evidenced by the toxic algae blooms that occur frequently and reduce oxygen levels in the water, harming living organisms. Beach closures due to sewage and detected E.coli counts, and aesthetically unappealing debris floating in the water, are two less severe effects also seen as a result of overflows.
According to a study conducted by the World Health Organization, every dollar invested in updating the water supply in America yields a minimum three dollar return on investment. Other communities have benefited from this investment in water infrastructure including the City of Bremerton, Washington which completed its CSO Reduction program in 2009 with an investment of more than $50 million, and achieved a 99.9% reduction in CSO events and volume.
“Although this may be a large investment we need to fix this problem, and we need to fix it now,” Small concluded.
*Graphic from the Environment Advocates of New York's "Tapped Out: New York's Clean Water in Peril"
Small serves as the Executive Director of the Parkside Community Association. In this role she is an advocate for 2,500 residents, working to enhance their quality of life through crime prevention, traffic calming, fair housing advocacy and more. Amber also serves on the Board of Directors for B-Team Buffalo, and is a member of the Amherst Chamber of Commerce’s Emerging Business Leaders council. She proudly serves as Vice Chair of WEPAC, a nonpartisan group focused on increasing female involvement in politics and government. Amber is a graduate of the University at Buffalo, and resides in North Buffalo’s Parkside neighborhood with her family. New York's Sixtieth Senate District is located wholly in Erie County and includes the communities of Tonawanda, City of Tonawanda, Kenmore, Grand Island, Hamburg, Orchard Park, Evans, Brant, and the City of Buffalo. Small is endorsed by the Democratic Party, the Working Families Party and the Women’s Equality Party.