The Buffalo News
Water crews working to fix break in Southtowns
Aging system, weather may have played a role
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.