Cuomo

FILE - Gov. Andrew Cuomo sits for a ceremonial bill signing Wednesday, April 26 with, from left, state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos, Auburn Mayor Michael Quill, Cayuga County Legislature Chairman Keith Batman, Owasco Town Supervisor Ed Wagner and state Department of Health Commissioner Howard Zucker.

Kevin Rivoli, The Citizen

The city of Auburn is one of more than 20 New York municipalities awarded funding to replace aging drinking water lines that contain lead. 

Auburn will receive $698,134 through the state Department of Health's Lead Service Line Replacement Program. The grant program is part of the Clean Water Infrastructure Act that was included in the 2017-18 state budget. 

The city was one of two central New York municipalities to receive funding. Syracuse was also awarded $698,134 to replace lead service lines. In the Finger Lakes region, the town of Lyons in Wayne County received a $538,096 grant. 

Overall, the state allocated $20 million to replace lead service lines. 

"These critical improvements to New York's drinking water infrastructure are vital to protecting public health and to laying the foundation for future growth and economic prosperity in these communities," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. 

Water contamination is possible when pipes containing lead corrode. While a 1986 federal law bans the use of lead in pipes, older water lines that contain lead could corrode and contaminate the water. 

Lead poisoning can be harmful, especially for young children and babies. New York requires medical providers to test children for lead at ages 1 and 2. 

There has been a greater focus on lead contamination after the problems that plagued Flint, Michigan. The city's drinking water wasn't treated properly and high levels of lead were found in the system. Thousands of children were exposed to lead as a result of the crisis. 

State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said New York's program to replace lead water pipes will improve the health of residents. 

"Public health begins with access to clean drinking water, and reducing lead exposure, especially in children, should always be a top priority," he said. 

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