Rainy day looms for taxpayers - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Rainy day looms for taxpayers

Updated:

November 7, 2007

Albany --  Another huge burden may be facing Albany taxpayers. We've known for years that the sewage system is inadequate, and now the federal government may force Albany system upgrades. That means up to one hundred million dollars of local money may have to be spent on the project.

It's the focus of downtown Albany. "The Flint River is a precious resource.  It's just absolutely beautiful," said City Commissioner  Bob Langstaff.

And it's beautiful waters draw visitors to the area, but there's something not so nice that sometimes finds its way downstream.

"If we get an inch of rain in the summertime within an hour, let's say, then the rain will overflow and there will be a combined sewer outfall, so what happens is we actually have to discharge untreated sewer water into the Flint River," Langstaff said.

So what does that mean?  Basically, that whatever you flush... goes straight to the River.

That's because part of the sanitary sewer system is combined with the storm drainage and when overloaded, the two overflow.  It's not a tremendous amount.  The EPD actually grants a permit to the city allowing it, but that won't continue forever.

"Our EPD permit to discharge into the Flint is going to expire at some point so we need to get on the ball to go ahead and separate our sewer and make it a priority,"  said City Manager Al Lott.

The problem?  Funding.  Although the separation is mandated by the federal government, they didn't provide any money.

"It would cost us about $100 Million to completely separate our systems."

But city commissioners have other major expensive projects they would like to undertake, like alley paving, which would cost almost $50 million to pave every alley within the city. 

"We simply presently cannot afford to put all of our assets toward that, we have to prioritize," said Lott.

And Lott says there are other projects that need to be looked into, like the upkeep of city facilities.  He says he'll consider what projects take top priority and will likely ask citizens to approve a penny sales tax within the next several years. 

The city will ask the EPA to partially fund the separation of the sewer systems, though there is no hard deadline on the date that must be completed.

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