Tonawanda News

September 27, 2011

Sewer project turns political

By John J. Hopkins
The Tonawanda News

TOWN OF TONAWANDA — A major sewer construction project served as the backdrop of a heated political discussion Monday night.

Town officials took exception with the manner in which Gigi Grizanti questioned the quality of water in the neighborhood near the multi-million dollar Parker-Fries Interceptor project.

Councilman Joe Emminger said Grizanti, a member of the town’s Republican Committee, was politically motivated, noting the general election in which residents will vote on the town supervisor and several town board positions is six weeks away. All four board members and Supervisor Anthony Caruana are Democrats.

Emminger said town officials were unaware of a problem in Grizanti’s neighborhood until Ken Maving, the town’s director of water resources, saw a news item on television Monday morning.

“For you to call the newspapers and contact the TV stations, this is political grandstanding,” Emminger said, then asking Grizanti if she had contacted the town about the problem.

Grizanti admitted she hadn’t, adding “this was a conversation I had with residents over the weekend.”

“We have been up front with the residents from the start,” Emminger said. “Anyone who has attended the numerous public meetings knows that.”

Grizanti replied that she has attended every meeting and has spoken at each one. She said her action wasn’t politically motivated, gesturing to a bottle containing water with an orange tint, “look at that water.”

The Tonawanda News received two email press releases indicating town residents would approach the town board Monday night to demand an independent party test the water. The first, from Grizanti, was sent Sunday night. The second came from the Ken-Ton GOP, with a return address, with Grizanti listed as the contact for more information.

Before the exchange between the board and Grizanti, she had explained that she and neighbors had noticed a black film in their toilet bowls and an odor of sulfur. She said she ran her tap for 10 minutes before collecting the sample of orange-tinted water.

Joining Grizanti was some of her neighbors who live along Parker Boulevard. They said they’ve recently experienced cloudy water coming from their taps, sometimes bearing an odor of sulfur, and expressed concern about the sediment, questioning if sewage was seeping into their water lines.

Maving said the sanitary sewer line is separate from the water main. There has been a natural sulfur odor coming from the soil in certain areas, the director of water resources added.

“The notion that sewage can infiltrate a pressurized water line is (unfounded),” Maving said.

According to Maving there have been issues with cloudy water, notably in the Werkley Road area, where there was “a cluster” of complaints.

He said the sediment is minerals that have been disrupted as water lines have been shut off and “flow patterns” shifted to accommodate construction.

Grizanti also stated she was told by one homeowner that the town turned off his meter and offered to reimburse him for a water filtration system.

“I want to know why this wasn’t offered to all of us that are experiencing this issue," she said, adding she wanted a third party to test the water for any contaminants.

Parker Boulevard and several adjacent streets has been disrupted since late June 2010 when work on the Parker-Fries Interceptor project began. A four-phase endeavor that will proceed well into the future, the interceptor project is replacing an existing 30-inch diameter sewer pipe with 48- and 72-inch pipe.

The first phase, valued at $30 million, was projected to last two years.

Maving said the water is safe for consumption but, “if you don’t believe us we’ll have (samples) sent out and tested by an outside lab.”