Orleans, Lowville, other communities to receive funds needed for water projects

Road salt contamination has caused extensive corrosion at Andy Greene’s home in Fishers Landing, as seen here in his basement where he sits behind a corroded pipe on a hot water heater ruined by salt, holding a kitchen faucet he replaces every few years. Photo by Justin Sorensen, Watertown Daily Times.

Road salt contamination has caused extensive corrosion at Andy Greene’s home in Fishers Landing, as seen here in his basement where he sits behind a corroded pipe on a hot water heater ruined by salt, holding a kitchen faucet he replaces every few years. Photo by Justin Sorensen, Watertown Daily Times.

Several north country municipalities, including the town of Orleans, are getting millions of dollars in state funding for various water infrastructure projects.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Wednesday that the state is doling out $29.7 million in grants for projects in Essex, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties. The grants will also be supplemented by approximately $83.7 million in interest-free and low-interest loans from the Environmental Facilities Corp.

One grant will pay for the remaining $3 million needed to construct a water line in Orleans to provide clean drinking water to residential wells contaminated by salt.

Since the 1980s, a DOT salt barn on Route 12 in Fishers Landing has caused widespread water contamination that has affected the private wells of around 50 residents.

Contamination has even driven business away from the town, where dilapidated gas stations and restaurants can be found along Route 12.

The state DOT has provided bottled water to affected residents since April.

The town’s solution is to construct a new water line extending from the village of Alexandria Bay, but the project has a $13 million price tag. To make the project affordable for users, Orleans can only use $8.4 million of an available $11.4 million EFC loan. The town has lined up an additional $1.6 million in grants, but it has struggled to fill the remaining $3 million gap.

“It’s definitely a step in the right direction,” Orleans Supervisor Kevin R. Rarick said, adding that he has not yet received an official letter from state. “Hopefully we can get a water line in the ground pretty soon.”

Virginia Tech researchers are currently analyzing the water from private wells. So far, certain levels of lead and other chemicals exceeding the Environmental Protection Agency action level have been discovered in a handful of wells.

Jefferson County Legislator Philip N. Reed, whose home has been affected by the salt issue, said the grant has been a long time coming. The town also will receive a $10,251,488 State Revolving Fund loan.

“We’ve been suffering from this problem for quite a while now, and it’s good to see some light at the end of the tunnel,” Mr. Reed said. He noted that Orleans residents should be credited with helping to get the word out. Residents have held a few protests in the town over the past year.

State Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, praised the funding, which is part of the second round of water infrastructure grants funded through the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act.

“For decades, people in the Thousand Islands community of Orleans have struggled with heavy salt contamination in their wells that has made life difficult for residents and hampered economic activity in a region of our state that has such potential for growth,” Sen. Ritchie said. “I would like to thank the state for recognizing how critical it is for Orleans to move forward, put shovels in the ground and begin work on a project that will deliver clean, fresh water to residents and businesses in this community.”

Sen. Ritchie proposed a resolution in March that would have required the state to pay for the project, though it was not included in the final 2016-17 state budget.

Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, said she will make sure the project gets started as soon as possible.

“I want to assure the residents in the affected area that help is on the way and I will continue to track this project to make sure the funding is provided as expeditious in manner as possible,” she said in a statement.

Lowville hits its numbers

In Lewis County, the village of Lowville was awarded a combined $5 million in grant funding for a pair of projects aimed to improve its sewage treatment plant and portions of its sewer system. The grants will be supplemented by around $25 million in loans.

“I guess I would say that Albany came through,” village Mayor Donna M. Smith said, noting that the $5 million was the maximum available to a municipality through the program.

The grants are to cover $2.27 million of a $20 million sewage plant project and $2.73 million of the $11 million sewer portion of its $16.2 million “five streets” project, with loans available to cover the remainder of the funding; Mrs. Smith said she believes the loans all will be interest free, but will need to verify that.

Village officials next year are hoping to kick off a project intended to completely redo its five main streets, including water, sewer and stormwater lines, with hopes of getting additional grant funding to aid with the water line portion.

And, with the ongoing expansion of the Kraft Heinz cream cheese plant expected to increase the plant’s sewer usage starting in mid-December, trustees are pushing to complete a $3.88 million first phase of the $20 million project by then to accommodate the planned increase. The more expensive second phase would then be done over the next couple years to further increase capacity for possible future expansion.

Mrs. Smith said a portion of the grant funding is expected to be available to help cover Phase I costs.

Watertown gets $9.3 million

The city of Watertown received a $2,306,840 state grant and $6,920,520 loan to upgrade the wastewater treatment plant and turn its sludge into methane gas.

Councilman Stephen A. Jennings called the grants, “Terrific news.”

The funds will allow the facility to receive upgraded equipment, a heating system and a building for sludge storage.

This is the third time the city applied for the funding through the Environmental Facilities Corp.

Earning this grant is consultant Leeann West’s first success for the city. It hired Ms. West of Strategic Development Specialists LLC, Syracuse, for $60,000 over the past two years.

The village of Adams also hit it big, receiving a $2,387,425 grant and a $1,591,617 loan for a water infrastructure project with a $3.9 million price tag. This grant could be used for water quality testing for two unused wells at the Adams Country Club golf course, as well as hiring engineers to assess the wells for a utilization plan. If the wells become usable, they could produce 1.5 million gallons of water per day.

Officials could not be reached for comment.

$10 million dollars for Potsdam

In St. Lawrence County, the villages of Potsdam and Gouverneur and town of Clifton received a total of around $5,488,000 in grants, along with loans.

The village of Potsdam’s grant award is $2,677,500, with their State Revolving Fund loan amount at an approximate $8,032,500. The grant will go toward rehabilitating the wastewater treatment plant in the village, which has an estimated project cost of $10,710,000.

“This is the first big piece of funding that we’ve received for the wastewater treatment plant. A big impact this grant has is making all of our other funding sources see that it’s a real, legitimate project worth funding,” said Frederick J. Hanss, executive director of Potsdam Community Development Corp. “Our department and the town worked very hard to pull these proposals together and submit them and we’re all very happy. This is great news for Potsdam.”

The town of Clifton received $2.34 million in grant funds and $1.56 million in state revolving fund loans.

Star Lake is building a new drinking water system, which includes part of the town of Clifton, according to Supervisor Charles R. Hooven.

Phase two of the project includes an interconnect between Star Lake and Newton Falls, which will allow for the elimination of the outdated Newton Falls water plant.

“All of these small towns could never accomplish these infrastructure projects without the aid of the state and I would like to thank Governor Cuomo and his office for their continued support of the north country,” Mr. Hooven said in an email.

The village of Gouverneur received $470,750 in funding, coupled with $1,412,250 in State Revolving Fund loans. Funding will be used to complete the main pumping station at the village’s wastewater filtration plant, estimated to cost $1,883,000.

“We are going to have a modern wastewater filtration plant,” Mayor Ronald P. McDougall said. “For a village the size of Gouverneur and the infrastructure need that we demonstrated, this is a big step forward to modernizing our antiquated infrastructure.”

Mr. McDougall said representatives from Bernier Carr & Associates are working on the final drawings for the pumping station. He said he and the rest of his board were appreciative of the funding and were glad the state recognized Gouverneur’s needs.

“I couldn’t be more pleased when I received the call this morning,” he said. “This is a good thing for Gouverneur.”

Elsewhere in Lewis County

The town of Denmark was awarded $1.5 million for a $2.5 million project intended to replace old water lines to nearly 30 customers outside the village of Copenhagen.

“I’m pretty happy, because we’ve been working on it a long time,” Denmark Supervisor Thomas W. Fleming said.

When the village upgraded its water system several years ago, the town was required to form a water district to cover outside users who had connected to the village system over the years, Mr. Fleming said. And, since those lines are old and not uniform, town officials hope to replace the lines to improve service and lessen leaks, he said.

Several new customers may also be added following the upgrades, Mr. Fleming said.

The village of Harrisville will also receive a $120,000 grant for a $200,000 water project. Village officials were not immediately available to discuss the project.

In Jefferson County

Elsewhere in Jefferson County, in the town of Hounsfield, the $123,408 in state support will go toward implementing an aeration process in the town’s water tower, which Supervisor Timothy W. Scee said was necessary for the town to be in compliance with state standards. The town will not receive an ESD loan, according to the governor’s release. The total cost is $205,680.

“This aeration system will put us back in compliance, and everything will be moving forward,” he said. “It’s a must-do project, not optional.”

The town of Cape Vincent received $622,140 for a water project. Town officials could not be reached Wednesday afternoon to discuss the funding.

The village of Clayton also received a $3 million grant and a $3,190,000 loan to improve the infrastructure of James Street and the lines around Bartlett Point as part of village’s water improvement project. The project is expected to cost $6.9 million.

Times staff writers Marcus Wolf, Craig Fox, Elizabeth Lewis and Gordon Block contributed to this report.

Big Numbers

Local north country projects funded by the grants:

Town of Orleans: $3,000,000 grant, $10,251,488 loan

Village of Lowville: $5,000,000 in grants (two awards), $25 million in loans

Village of Clayton: $3,000,000 grant, $3,190,000 loan

Village of Potsdam: $2,677,500 grant, $8,032,500 loan

Village of Adams: $2,387,425 grant, $1,591,617 loan

City of Watertown: $2,306,840 grant, $6,920,520 loan

Town of Denmark: $1,500,000 grant, $1,000,000 loan

Town of Cape Vincent: $622,140 grant, $1,758,931 loan

Village of Gouverneur: $470,750 grant, $1,412,250 loan

Town of Hounsfield: $123,408 grant

Village of Harrisville: $120,000 grant, $80,000 loan

By Brian Molongoski, Steve Virkler, and Jake Newman, Watertown Daily Times