By Jennifer L. Warren
POUGHKEEPSIE – Cooper Miller raised the piece of pipe containing lead from his home high up in front of the group that gathered outside of Poughkeepsie City Hall Thursday night.
“Until we remove the lead from the water pumps in the City of Poughkeepsie, we are playing Russian Roulette with our health and well being,” emphasized Cooper, who along with his wife, has lived in a home they purchased in the City of Poughkeepsie in 2021.
Almost immediately upon the young couple moving into their first home, problems surfaced. Both of their cats became sick; one passed away soon after. Residents on their street and in the neighborhood- all sharing the same water service line- were plagued by an assortment of illnesses.
“These issues all seemed to be connected to one thing: lead exposure,” said Miller, who worked relentlessly to research the critical problem as well as accrue revealing data to the powers to be; however continually found his concerns falling upon deaf ears. “The City never offered to replace those lead lines which the entire street has; the policies they are now implementing are not keeping us safe, just placated.”
That status quo was adamantly challenged Thursday, as Assemblyman Jonathan Jacobson, joined by members of several environmental advocacy groups, turned out for a determined call upon City of Poughkeepsie Mayor, Mark Nelson, and the Common Council to adopt an Ordinance committing the City of Poughkeepsie to 100 percent lead pipe removal. Their urgent call included the City- not its residents- bearing the costs for the pipe replacements to rectify the documented high levels of lead that exist in the City’s present pipe infrastructure.
“Lead-free drinking water is a human right, and no one should have to worry about the water they are drinking,” affirmed Rob Hayes from Environmental Advocates of New York. “Right now the City of Poughkeepsie is not replacing the lead pipes at a fast enough rate; there have only been 14 done so far.” He added, “Today, we are very excited to announce this ‘Get the Lead out’ Ordinance.”
It’s an action fully supported by Jacobson, a strong advocate for getting lead out of the pipes in both of the municipalities he serves.
“The effects of lead poisoning are well known; there are no safe levels of lead to have in water,” said Jacobson. “We want to protect people from this lead as well as uphold our fiduciary responsibility to our residents, letting them know this is money the City will spend well, as it is so important to ensure the next generation is not contaminated.”
Jacobson has seen first-hand the positive, transformative results of tackling the lead water issue head-on. His other municipality- Newburgh- has replaced 240 pipes with its aggressive, tactical approach to troubleshoot this serious health hazard. He would like nothing more than to see a similar scenario play out in Poughkeepsie.
“Today, I join advocates and residents in the City of Poughkeepsie to replace all lead water lines,” said Jacobson. “It’s time for Poughkeepsie to get the lead out!”
With so many cities around the state facing water lead issues, the good news is that plans are already in place, as are many success stories.
“Replacing lead service lines can be very expensive, so many cities put it off; however, there are many ways to reduce those costs, and the City of Troy was able to pull it off, and do it at a reasonable cost,” said Greg Campbell from Cohen Timber in Troy, New York. “Lead is a barbaric, devastating thing that destroys communities; we want you to know Poughkeepsie: You are not alone in solving this problem.”