$3.5M federal grant for Middletown will fund replacement of century-old water mains

Chris McKenna
Times Herald-Record

MIDDLETOWN - Nearly two million gallons of drinking water flow each day through cast-iron pipes so old that some sections date back to the 1880s, buried before Middletown had electricity.

Any rupture in the aging mains carrying water from the city's treatment plant could cause a major disruption, cutting off service to about two-thirds of all homes and businesses in the city of 30,000.

Middletown Mayor Joe DeStefano listens as Anna Madden, owner of Something Sweet Dessert Cafe, speaks about the need for secure water mains during a press conference at City Hall in the city of Middletown on Friday.

On Friday, Middletown leaders and Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney celebrated a partial solution: a $3.5 million federal grant to install about a mile of ductile iron water mains, the second stage of the city's pipe replacement plans. City taxpayers footed the bill for the first stage, which cost about $4.5 million.

"We have 75 miles of water mains in our city," Mayor Joe DeStefano said at a City Hall press conference. "So you can imagine the cost of doing this on our own."

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New water pipes are stacked on top of each other in the city of Middletown, on Friday, April 8, 2022. A $3.5M federal grant for Middletown will fund the replacement of century-old water mains.

The grant was one of 10 for projects in Maloney's district that were included in a giant spending bill President Biden signed last month. Congress members were allowed to insert earmark grants for their districts and states for the first time in 11 years, after the banned practice was brought back with new safeguards in place to prevent abuse.

Some $38 million in all is headed to the Hudson Valley through grants from four congressmen. Maloney led with $19.5 million in grants. Behind that came Rep. Mondaire Jones, D-White Plains, with $8.2 million; Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-Yonkers, with $5.4 million; and Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-Rhinebeck, with $3.2 million.

New water pipes are stacked on top of each other in the city of Middletown on April 8, 2022.

Each secured only a portion of the funding he sought after the wish lists members submitted last year were winnowed and trimmed by congressional leaders and committees. Maloney's grant total was about half the $41.8 million he had proposed.

Congress approved funding he sought for a major sewer project in Newburgh, but the amount came to $3.1 million rather than $12.8 million in the final bill. The grant to replace Middletown water mains got knocked down to $3.5 million from $11.8 million.

Mayor Joe DeStefano and Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney talk and walk during a press conference in the city of Middletown on April 8, 2022.

At Friday's press conference, Maloney said grants like Middletown's, when combined with the funding for water and sewer systems and lead-pipe replacement in last year's $1.2 trillion federal infrastructure bill, will soon make crucial investments in local communities.

The earmark grants, he said, were directed at work that local leaders had identified as their most important needs.

"These are local priorities that we sourced through the community," Maloney said.

Joining him at the event to cheer the water project was Anna Madden, a Middletown native who has owned the Something Sweet Dessert Cafe on North Street with her husband Dave since 2004. She said simply that running a business presents enough challenges without the havoc that losing water service would cause.

"Safe, reliable water should be a guarantee," Madden said.

Chris McKenna covers government and politics for the Times Herald-Record and USA Today Network. Reach him at cmckenna@th-record.com.