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OCT 07- OCT 14, 2014

Water Line Problem Gets Lip Service ...But No Help, Water Board Tells 72nd St Residents ‘You’re On Your Own’

October 07, 2014

Plumbers were called last February to 72nd St to thaw out lines that should have been replaced and located deeper in the ground when the road was reconstructed in 2010.

Last February, 16 homes on the 500 block of 72nd Street saw interruptions in water service. Water lines were frozen under their street.

As residents dealt with the problem, the city allowed them to shower and get water from the 72nd Street fire hall. Just like in a third world country, residents got drinking water and showered at a public building, not in their homes.

After the pipes were thawed with electrical current - at an expense to taxpayers of $47,153, or $2,920 per home - the Niagara Falls Water Board allowed homeowners to trickle water in their lines - to prevent refreezing - without charging them for extra water use - about $50 to $100 worth of water per resident.

This year, the Water Board sent homeowners a notice informing them they will not get any break for the extra money it will cost them to keep water trickling to prevent a water freeze during the winter of 2014.

In response, the 72nd Street residents - between Girard Avenue and Niagara Falls Boulevard - circulated a petition, signed by 68 people --- calling for action to fix the problem.

Officially no one is saying what the problem is, but neighbors who read the Niagara Falls Reporter already know it, since, after we figured it out last February, we reported it: The water lines are too shallow. They have always been too shallow. But - and this is the big ‘but’ - after new road work was done, the clay packed around the lines was displaced by gravel which takes in water which then freezes and causes the pipes to freeze.

About a dozen neighbors arrived at the last Water Board meeting last month to find out answers.

They were presented instead with a written statement which read in part: “The Niagara Falls Water Board and the city of Niagara Falls are very sensitive to this issue that some residents have experienced during excessively colds winters. To help identify a solution to this problem, the city of Niagara Falls has commissioned an engineering report for which we hope to learn the findings of in the near future."

At the meeting, the board refused to answer questions from residents.

When Joe Hauser, one of the 72nd Street residents, asked for a direct answer, a Water Board official said, "We don't answer questions" at the public comment period of their meetings.

The Dyster administration says it has paid a consultant to review the problem. The firm has reportedly written about its findings, but nobody has seen it. Several 72nd Street residents expressed frustration over the lack of response to their telephone calls to Mayor Dyster’s office.

The Reporter - without getting paid as a consultant - is going to explain the problem again: Pay attention.

In 2010, the Dyster administration performed a $2.6 million full-depth road reconstruction of 72nd Street between Buffalo Avenue and Niagara Falls Blvd. Only half the street - from Buffalo Ave. to Stephenson St. - got new water lines. The other half, from Stephenson to Niagara Falls Blvd., did not get new lines.

According to the contractor, Accadia Site Contracting, for about $300,000 more the whole street could have had new water lines and no freezing problem.

It was the Water Board that decided not to install new water lines from Stephenson to Niagara Falls Blvd. - where the freeze problem now occurs.

The water lines under that half of the road that were not replaced are too shallow, being as little as two feet below the surface. Water lines should be more than 48 inches below ground to be below freeze lines.

So why didn’t it freeze before?

Until the road was redone, the old water lines were insulated. But when the road was redone, the soil around the lines was replaced by gravel, and now frost penetrates quicker and deeper.

"The problem is we had to put the stone in, in order to support the roadway," said Anthony Mallone, a licensed engineer and project manager for the job.

Paul Marinaccio, president of Accadia, added, "The dirt had been around the water lines for 70 years. It kept everything tight. Now we come digging along and take the pressure of the dirt away and [the water lines] start leaking because they're deteriorated."

What should have been done?

"Install a new water line, excavate it down to a depth that would have been below the freeze line," Mallone said.

Why didn't they do that?

"Because the Water Board had to come up with the money," answered Mallone.

"When we did the job, [we knew] the water line wasn't deep enough," Marinaccio said. "I sent the city a letter saying that they should replace the water line and they said (the Water Board would not approve) the money."

There are two solutions to this problem: One is to dig up the road and put in a new, deeper water line. That will cost about $500,000.

The city has $462,000 to repave its own parking lot. It has $350,000 per year for an Underground Railroad Exhibit; $500,000 to give to Isaiah 61; and $1.5 million per year to hold events on Old Falls St. and subsidize conferences.

If asked, the city will likely say it doesn't have money to fix the road.

The other option is to do nothing and make sure residents with shallow water lines keep water trickling constantly during cold winter months. If you've got a little flow, it'll never freeze.

Last year Water Board Executive Director Paul J. Drof said homes on 72nd were on a program where homeowners can let water trickle from December through March without being charged for added water. Now residents won't be afford that courtesy - a courtesy that would cost the Water Board a grand total of about $1,600.

Residents are told, you don't want it to freeze? Keep your water running, at your own expense.

Dyster won't answer calls. But he has hired a consultant.

If you don’t like it, move. That's what plenty of people have done and will continue to do.

Water lateral lines ( tip of arrow) run from the main to individual homes. They are too shallow on 72nd St.






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