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Lack of investment to blame for high rate of sewage overflow in Erie County and statewide

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An alarming report from one of New York’s environmental watchdog shows nearly a sixth of the sewage overflows taking place across the state are happening in Erie County.

“We found 58% of the reports, which were 2,696 in total came from Erie County alone,” said Water and Natural Resources Associate Elizabeth Moran of the group Environmental Adovcates of New York.

The group’s report, “Tapped Out: New York’s Clean Water in Peril” is based on data from the 2012 state Sewage Pollution Right to Know Act.

Moran said Erie County residents don’t have to be too alarmed because the numbers are a sign that good reporting is being done. She said if the public knows sewage overflow is happening, they can avoid unintentional exposure.

Moran said the report should raise awareness to the cause of the overflow, and that it comes down to one word: investment.

“We really need to invest in the DEC so they have the staffing level that they need and are able to provide support that community’s need and we also need to invest in our aging infrastructure,” said Moran. “DEC actually, the Division of Water alone has 30% fewer staff than they did 25 years ago and they’re working with one seventh the budget in today’s dollars.”

Moran said those resources aren’t adequate to make sure everything is flowing properly.

The question remains, who pays the bill for what amounts to big-budget repairs? Moran said the state used additional settlement dollars from the last couple of years to create a new grant program for water infrastructure. She and her colleagues want to see that program built upon.

“It’s supposed to end next year,” explained Moran. “We want to see the program go on permanently because the need for repairs is just so great.”

Environmental Advocates is calling on Albany to invest at least $800 million into the grant program each year.

Avery began his broadcasting career as a disc jockey for WRUB, the University at Buffalo’s student-run radio station.
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