The Buffalo News

Water crews working to fix break in Southtowns

Aging system, weather may have played a role

- By Barbara O’Brien and Harold McNeil

Crews from the Erie County Water Authority were working to repair a significan­t water main break near the Sturgeon Point Water Treatment plant in Evans that interrupte­d water service to much of the Southtowns earlier in the day Thursday.

The break occurred at about 10:45 a.m., but crews were able to isolate the break to begin making repairs, said Leonard Kowalski, Erie County Water Authority executive engineer.

“A repair like this will typically take around 24 hours to repair,” Kowalski said.

However, he added, the system was designed for a situation such as this one.

“We opened up an interconne­ction and were able to backfeed the system. So, currently, no one is out of water, but we do have customers that will be experienci­ng lower than normal water pressure,” Kowalski said at about 4 p.m. Thursday.

He added that the water authority would continue discussion­s with the Erie County Department of Health, but did not anticipate any need for a water advisory.

Kowalski said the persistent freeze/ thaw cycle this time of year, combined with the water authority’s aging infrastruc­ture, may have played a role in causing the water main break.

“It’s been a pretty cold February. So the typical standard distributi­on system has been experienci­ng higher than average leaks for this time of year,” Kowakski said. “That’s typically where the colder weather and the frost come into play with impacting distributi­on lines.”

Two winters ago, water mains across Erie County began springing leaks, reaching a crescendo in late February 2019, when the water authority reported a total of 13 breaks that had affected locations in Cheektowag­a, Clarence, Evans, Lancaster, Orchard Park and Sloan.

“It’s almost equivalent to pothole season,” Water Authority Deputy Director Robert J. Lichtentha­l Jr. said at the time.

Lichtentha­l noted then that parts of the aging water system simply could not withstand the region’s freeze-thaw cycle, causing the water main breaks.

The cause of Thursday’s water main break has yet to be determined.

“We don’t currently know the cause of the failure right now, but definitely weather could have been a potential impact,” Kowalski said.

The water authority has been engaged in a short-term five-year plan and also working on a long-term 20-year infrastruc­ture investment plan this year to

put the authority on pace to spend $55 million on infrastruc­ture improvemen­ts to address situations such as Thursday’s water main break, Kowalski said.

“That is the intent, to start replacing the aging infrastruc­ture with newer infrastruc­ture to try to lessen failures like this in the future,” he added.

The areas that were affected by the water main break included the southern part of the water authority’s distributi­on network, including Evans, Eden and up into the Orchard Park area, where there were customers temporaril­y without water.

“And there were customers with lower than normal water pressure in the Lackawanna/West Seneca area, and north of there,” Kowalski said.

Meanwhile, students at Windom Elementary School in the Orchard Park Central School District were sent home early Thursday because of the water main break, school district spokeswoma­n Julianne Becker said.

 ?? Derek Gee/Buffalo News ?? Highland Hose firefighte­rs assist with pumping on Lake Shore Road in Derby after a water main break in the area on Thursday.
Derek Gee/Buffalo News Highland Hose firefighte­rs assist with pumping on Lake Shore Road in Derby after a water main break in the area on Thursday.

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