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BIGGEST LEAK IN COUNTY HITS CLOSE TO HOME

Erie County Water Authority crews are poised to tackle repairs on the biggest leak in the county water system, one that is leaking some 200,000 gallons of water each day.

They won't have to go far. It's under the parking lot of the Water Authority's main service center, on Union Road in Cheektowaga.

A 30-inch water main under the lot has been leaking "probably for four years," senior engineer Wes Dust told commissioners Thursday during the authority's weekly meeting.

The water has been pouring into a drainage basin, and engineers had delayed repairs because of concerns that the leak was under adjoining railroad property. Test holes, though, have traced the loss to a concrete main under the service center's front parking lot.

"Great public relations," commented commissioner George Hasiotis.

"Other water entities don't bother fixing their leaks," rejoined Executive Director Robert A. Mendez. "We do."

As large as the leak is -- gushing water at the rate of 73 million gallons a year -- it pales in comparison to other local water losses.

The City of Buffalo's aging distribution system leaks an estimated 46 million gallons a day, or 17 billion gallons a year -- just under half the water Buffalo takes from the lake and treats for purity.

Dust said the job will be tricky because the leak is near a pole that supports the main electrical lines servicing the water plant.

Utility company crews will rig supports for the pole while water workers dig down to repair the leak.

"It's a big job, but it's not costly," Dust said.

In other action, the authority's deputy assistant counsel, Mark J. Fuzak, reported progress in updating the Water Authority's agreements with towns to either manage water districts or sell bulk quantities of water.

The most recent version of the agency's lease-management agreement is being sent to five suppliers whose leases expired either recently or in the 1980s.

Included are Amherst, whose agreement expired in March; the Town of Lancaster, expired in January; Boston District 2 (1981); Clarence District 5 (1982); and the Village of Hamburg (1982). Newstead District 9, a new Authority customer, also has an agreement ready for signing.

Expired bulk sales agreements are being approached more slowly.

The Town of Clarence will receive a recent version of a bulk sales agreement that expired in 1970, and the Village of Orchard Park will review a proposed replacement for a simple 1955 agreement with no expiration date.

Fuzak noted that he's reviewing bulk sales agreements that expired as long ago as 1937, and that the Village of Williamsville's agreement -- with the Western New York Water Co., not the authority -- expired in 1949.

"We're still shipping them water," he said.

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