Share this article

print logo

Crumbling breakwater seen as threat to Dunkirk water plant intake

DUNKIRK – The major intake pipe at the Dunkirk Water Treatment Plant is in possible peril from a badly eroded 500-foot section of Lake Erie breakwater.

As a result, the city is working on a way to secure the wall, Mayor A. J. Dolce confirmed Saturday. The project is expected to cost more than $300,000.

Dolce said the wall, located behind the plant along Route 5 in the city, is at least 50 years old. The intake pipe collects water from Lake Erie, which is then treated for use by city residents and the Chadwick Bay Industrial Park – the home of Nestle Purina as well as other manufacturers. The problem could jeopardize water service for a large area of Dunkirk.

“Our city engineer is working on a design,” said Dolce, who added that the site was visited by county, state and federal officials within the last few days. Divers also have examined the structure.

Chautauqua County Executive Vince Horrigan said he also has examined the breakwater, which protects the water treatment plant. Currently, the county is working on long-range plans for the water treatment facility to be a major supplier to communities in northern Chautauqua County.

Horrigan also said large pumps have been obtained in the “unlikely event that there is a collapse.” He said the pumps would provide an alternate intake line to the treatment facility if the main line is damaged by a collapsed breakwater.

“We are prepared for a quick response,” Horrigan said.

Dolce, meanwhile, said action on the problem is unlikely when the City Council meets on Tuesday.

“As soon as the design is done we will go out and seek proposals,” he said.

“We looked at (the breakwater) last fall and knew it was in a decline,” Dolce said. The structure protects the brick-and-mortar facility, which houses the treatment equipment and pumps that suply water to the city.

Dolce noted the Army Corps of Engineers and Julius Leone, emergency services coordinator for Chautauqua County, are involved in coming up with a solution.

The city also is nearing completion of a mandated project to improve the water transmission system – a nearly $20 million investment n new lines, water storage and treatment.

Horrigan said he will seek outside funding to assist the city.

“We will be presenting a proposal this month,” he said. The county will try to tap into a fund that is earmarked for waterfront projects.

The proposed regional water district for northern Chautauqua County, which has been in the planning stages for years, would provide water to areas that have not had service. The city’s equipment has the capacity to pump more than 6 million gallons of treated water each day.

The northern Chautauqua district would serve communities where private wells and reservoir systems have come under the scrutiny of Health Department officials concerned about the potential of contamination.

Horrigan said inter-municipal agreements for participating communities will be prepared for signing this week, then submitted for approval to the Legislature, which then will consider $20 million for water services lines, pumping stations and storage systems for the regional plan.