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Along the Lakeshore: The city water system; an eagle on the lake

There was an article in the Post Standard about the havoc alternating cycles of extreme cold and warm spells are creating with the cast-iron water mains in the city. The mayor is trying to get a big bundle of quid from her friends in Albany to help out with the problem.

A good part of the system was installed prior to 1900 and most of it is cast-iron, which was the usual material of that period. Some of these lines carry a very high pressure. Consider how high the Geddes Street reservoir is in relation to the lower levels down around Fayette Street and Erie Boulevard. Erie Boulevard was once a canal and the lowest elevation in the city.

Some years ago, there was a break in a large feeder main about halfway up Geddes Street. The pictures on TV made it look like Niagara Falls rushing down the roadway. This caused big-time trouble and cost lots of money to repair. Two years ago, a large line on South Warren Street broke and flooded most of the basements of the businesses in the area. This was also a costly repair. The realistic cost of a system-wide renewal has never been revealed, but it must be in the $40 million to one billion dollar range.

Water has been plentiful in the last few years and the loss of millions of gallons of water has not been considered, as there has been a lot more of it in Skaneateles Lake. Also, the cost is low because pumping is not needed to get it to Syracuse. If we were in a drought condition, however, the cost of water loss could be a big issue.

It certainly behooves the city to find the cash to replace 10 percent of its system annually until they get caught up. Maybe a more realistic fee structure would help. The usage fees are backwards in that the small house owner pays a lot more per gallon than a big user like Budweiser.

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