- Associated Press - Thursday, March 5, 2015

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Environmental groups urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers to set aside $800 million as a down payment on the billions of dollars needed to address the state’s aging water and sewer systems.

A new report from a coalition of four groups says the state faces an infrastructure crisis if it doesn’t invest in upgrades and repairs of drinking water and waste water systems throughout the state. As an immediate step, the group proposed using $800 million from the state’s $5 billion windfall from financial settlements.

“We simply cannot afford to let our water systems slide any further,” said Paul Gallay, president of Riverkeeper, an organization that fights to protect the Hudson River estuary. “We are already on the brink of disaster. We’re essentially telling new York families to forget about clean drinking water by the time their children grow up.”

The coalition also includes Environmental Advocates, the League of Conservation Voters and the Adirondack Council.

The state’s environmental department says New York needs at least $36 billion to repair and upgrade wastewater systems over the next 20 years. Another report estimates that the state faces $22 billion in drinking water needs.

The challenges are already obvious in cities like Syracuse, which experienced nearly 400 water main breaks last year.

The call to use a portion of the windfall on water projects echoes similar proposals from several state lawmakers. The windfall is the result of several large legal settlements with financial institutions.

Cuomo has suggested spending the money on upstate economic development, expanded broadband Internet access, the state Thruway system, upgrades at New York City airports and other highway and mass transit projects around the state.

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