Tonawanda News

July 26, 2013

NT mayor to push for flood measures

By Michael Regan michael.regan@tonawanda-news.com
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — North Tonawanda Mayor Rob Ortt said he will push to borrow several hundred thousand dollars as part of the 2014 budget to counteract some of the problems that arose from last week’s severe storm. 

As residents continue to clean-up flooded basements caused by 4.3 inches of rain in a two to three hour period Friday night and into Saturday, Ortt said he met this week with city Engineer Dale Marshall and Department of Public Works Chief Brad Rowles to begin the conversation about potential solutions. 

“We had a lot of water in a short period of time,” Ortt said. “A lot of rain our system couldn’t handle.” 

One of myriad issues that came about as a result of the heavy rains involved the city’s sewer and water intake systems, which collected 785 million gallons of water in less than 24 hours, vastly exceeding the municipality’s threshold, according to Marshall, and representing about five times the capacity the system can handle. 

While Ortt said he recognizes that a storm of such magnitude is rare, in general, he believes they are becoming more common. He’ll begin discussions with common council members in the coming weeks, proposing the purchase of several gas-powered generators that could be permanently attached to some of the city’s 11 sanitary sewer pump stations.

As was the case on Friday, when the stations lose power they cease operations, leading DPW employees to rush portable generators to various pump stations across the city. Ortt’s proposal would put permanent generators in place, avoiding some of those issues. 

While that still may not have assuaged all of the flooding issues from the inordinately heavy rains last week, they would likely come through in most other situations, Ortt said. 

Six more stations, called lifts, are utilized for water collection and are constructed to allow gravity to do the work, according to Marshall, before leading out to the city’s wastewater treatment plant. 

Ortt said while the concept is in its infancy, with exact figures still being ascertained, early research indicates that the purchasing the generators for the hardest hit areas will cost in the range of $250,000 to $300,000. 

He believes the investment would help alleviate some flooding in the city’s harder hit areas on Nash and Walck roads, Erie Avenue and Meadow Drive, adding that North Tonawanda has been hit with the same issue twice in the last several months. 

“There has to be steps we can take to try and mitigate severe weather,” Ortt said. “It seems it’s becoming the norm.” 

Ortt said the recent weather could also open up a conversation among council members regarding the city’s aged infrastructure — with antiquated clay water and sewer lines, some more than 100 years old, encompassing most of its capabilities. While the council has broached the topic in recent months, a blueprint is far from in place. 

Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.