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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, March 12, 2009

Water rises along with worries in McKownville

By Anne Hayden

GUILDERLAND — McKownville residents are concerned that NanoTech storm- water runoff has caused flooding in many of the houses off of Fuller Road, and on Western Avenue in front of Stuyvesant Plaza. They fear the imminent expansion of its business campus will only make the problem worse.

NanoTech, however, says more precipitation in recent years has caused the problem.

NanoTech, the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, part of the University at Albany, began development in 1996. The NanoFab North building, a college building that rents space to corporations, located at the intersection of Fuller Road and Washington Avenue Extension, was completed in 2005.

 Over the past five or six years, McKownville residents have had more flooding, both in and around their homes, said Don Reeb, president of the McKownville Improvement Association.

The problem lies with the retaining ponds on the NanoTech site, said Reeb; originally slated to be self-contained, the ponds are interconnected, and their water is piped directly into a pond behind Warren Street, which feeds a stream. The stream goes into a storm basin that travels under Fuller Road into a State Department of Transportation pipe beneath Western Avenue, and on into the McKownville Reservoir.

The pond behind Warren Street has been there for over 20 years, originally created when the Freedom Quad apartments, part of the University at Albany, were built.  Reeb said the water flow to the pond and stream has changed dramatically since NanoTech was developed. He can remember when the stream was nothing but a trickle.

“I could easily step back and forth over it,” he said. Reeb said he was shocked when he realized in October that the stream had become so much larger.

McKownville homes that had never flooded before NanoTech, or had only needed to use sump pumps during the spring thaw, now flood year-round, Reebs said. The Plant family, on Providence Street, had close to $15,000 worth of damage to their home in August 2008, when flooding caused a basement wall to collapse.

NanoTech’s View

Steve Janack, vice president of Marketing and Communications for NanoTech, told The Enterprise this week that the company “fully and completely agrees that flooding in the area is a problem, and we share the impact of it.” NanoTech has spent millions of dollars to alleviate flooding on the campus and to protect its buildings and equipment, he said.

The past few years have been unusual, Janack said, and the amount of precipitation has been especially high, which he feels is the biggest factor contributing to flooding in and around NanoTech, McKownville, and Fuller Road. NanoTech hired a consultant to look into the situation and see what factors were involved; according to Janack, the report concluded that the flooding over the past years would have taken place even without the construction of NanoTech.

Mike Franchini, Albany County Public Works Commissioner, said he has had two meetings with NanoTech in the past two weeks, specifically to discuss flooding issues. He confirmed that a consultant had been hired to investigate the issue, but said the investigation is still ongoing.

Separate Problems

“They certainly know that some of their water is flowing toward Fuller Road,” said Franchini. “No one can deny that.” However, Franchini said that storm water from NanoTech would potentially contribute only to flooding on Western Avenue in front of Stuyvesant Plaza.

The flooding of basements is a separate issue, said Franchini. “That the two issues are related would be a very difficult conclusion to come to based on the information we have,” he said.

Another factor to consider is the rebuilding of Fuller Road in the near future. Reeb said he doesn’t believe that people know the rushing stream, stemming from the pond behind Warren Road, exists, and that it could affect construction plans.

The Fuller Road reconstruction could begin as early as the summer of 2009, and is slated to reconfigure two major intersections, provide new sidewalks, and a four-foot shoulder for bikes.

Janack said that, with the pending reconstruction of Fuller Road, there is the potential to address and remedy some of the flooding. “We are looking into specific solutions, and we’d like to work with the McKownville neighborhood to gather more funding,” he said.

Franchini also said that all possibilities are being explored in order to at least decrease the flow of water from Fuller Road toward Western Avenue during the Fuller Road reconstruction. “It’s a complicated issue and you can’t simplify it too much,” said Franchini. “I don’t think people understand all the contributing factors to storm water and flooding.” Franchini said things are too far out from the start of reconstruction to know the specific steps that will be taken.

Franchini and Janack will both be at a meeting of the McKownville Improvement Association, on Monday, March 16, to discuss the Fuller Road construction. Janack said the report provided by the NanoTech consultant will be presented at the meeting.

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