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Owasco's toxin treatment

The town of Owasco has installed large tanks filled with granular-activated carbon to treat toxins from harmful algal blooms.

The village of Aurora is ankle-deep in water problems — and the state is going to need to throw a lifeline before things get any worse.

Drinking water in Aurora is provided by an 85-year-old water plant at Wells College that will need to be replaced sooner rather than later. More urgently, the village is working on a plan to protect its water supply from becoming tainted with toxins found in algal blooms, which intensified last summer in Cayuga Lake.

To that end, the village hopes to design and construct an activated carbon filtering system before the hot summer months bring another round of algae blooms to the lake. Aurora would like to have its short-term fix approved within the next few weeks so that the system can be up and running by Aug. 1 — and that's where the state can and should make an immediate impact.

Auburn and Owasco were the local guinea pigs for activated carbon treatments backed by state funding last year, and the results have been positive. So New York needs to now look beyond Owasco Lake and help other municipalities facing the same problems.

And just like in the cases of Auburn and Owasco, elected officials need to get a coordinated effort together quickly. Engineering and installing these carbon filter systems takes time, and the warm weather that produces algal blooms will be here in a few months. So far, Aurora is working hand-in-hand with two of its biggest stakeholders, Wells College and the Inns of Aurora, but the county Legislature and state representatives need to get on board, too.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposed state budget includes $65 million to protect drinking water, with Cayuga Lake being listed as an area of concern. But Aurora can't afford to wait and see whether that money makes it into the final budget and then wait and see whether any funding gets earmarked for the village. 

We shudder to think how close Auburn came to having undrinkable tap water. Aurora must not be allowed to be put in the same position.

The Citizen editorial board includes publisher Rob Forcey, executive editor Jeremy Boyer and managing editor Mike Dowd.