Tonawanda News

The Town

January 27, 2010

TOWN OF TONAWANDA: Two-year Parker-Fries water project to be the first of many

After the town begins installing new water lines along Parker Boulevard in April, Acting Water Resource Director Ken Maving said residents will probably not see a month without some type of water project for the next few decades.

That’s because the town’s water infrastructure — much of which was installed as the town expanded during the 1950s and beyond — is decaying and in desperate need of repair. Councilman Joseph Emminger, the town board’s most vocal proponent for improving the system, said this spring is the beginning of a long and costly process that can’t wait any longer.

“That existing infrastructure was actually the catalyst for development in many of these communities, but it’s outlived its useful life,” he said.

The strain on the system is becoming more evident each passing year, with expensive line breaks and collapses becoming a somewhat regular occurrence. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates a $2.2 trillion cost nationwide over the next five years stemming from neglected replacements, and the number continues to grow as communities push improvements off.

In the 1970s, when the town undertook building a new water treatment facility — its last major improvement project to date — the federal government picked up 75 percent of the cost and the state kicked in 12.5 percent. Now, to complete improvements mandated by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and state Department of Environmental Conservation, the town is on the hook for roughly $200 million with no direct aid from either.

A 2006 collapse of the line near Kenmore East High School cost $120,000 to repair, but the money spent was only part of the problem. When the regular route for sewage was shut down, the system sent waste out through sanitary sewer overflow junctions just as it was designed to. But that event emphasized the problems with the old way of doing things, since the SSO keeps sewage out of people’s basements by sending it into their lakes and streams.

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The Town