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February 28, 2014

NT: Schenck Street repairs highlight in-house work

Tonawanda News — A sanitary sewer break along Schenck Street in North Tonawanda, that city officials feared could have developed into a sink hole, continues to receive emergency attention this week as crews rush to alleviate the problem.

The dilemma began late last year when city employees discovered a 300-foot portion of an antiquated clay pipe, thought to be nearly 100 years old, had disintegrated causing stone to tumble out underneath the roadway and sending water into some residents’ basements. 

But the problem could not be attended to until this week because of harsh winter conditions, according to officials, despite the threat of a void opening up under the roadway east of Niagara Street. 

City Engineer Dale Marshall said his team initially sent in a camera to investigate the line, when “we realized the sewer was completely clogged with several tons of stone.” 

“The amount of tonnage that was removed was the size of a car,” he said. “The line was supposed to be round but it was more like a squashed egg.” 

The fractured sanitary line belies a much more ubiquitous issue throughout the city, with aging infrastructure constituting dozens of miles thought to be in similar conditions. 

Like most of Western New York and the nation as a whole, the city’s water and sewer pipes are in rough shape, with sections of predominantly clay pipes often decades old found to be dilapidated. 

Yet with a likely pricetag of tens of millions of dollars to update the city’s infrastructure at large and with cuts to federal and state aid, the city has increasingly turned to its Department of Public Works crews to shave on costs and address the issue piecemeal. 

The North Tonawanda Common Council and Mayor Rob Ortt are expected to release their capital budget next week to address flooding and other widespread issues. 

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