A Cheektowaga drainage ditch that during wet weather becomes a conduit for untreated sewage into Scajaquada Creek was the setting Monday as elected officials urged the state to act quickly to approve the town’s 10-year plan for reducing such pollution.
Meanwhile, several miles to the west, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Monday to launch plans to create a publicly accessible waterfront park where Scajaquada Creek empties into the Black Rock Channel.
“The issues that we are dealing with here today are about a century in the making,” said State Sen. Tim Kennedy, D-Buffalo, standing near the ditch on Vegola Avenue in Cheektowaga.
The town – like other first-ring suburbs with old, deteriorating infrastructure – is under a consent order with the state and federal governments to improve and modernize its sewage treatment system to reduce sewer overflows that send raw sewage into area waterways. Cheektowaga submitted its plan to the state in July, and officials said it needs to be approved before November in order to begin remediation work before year’s end.
“We’re calling on the Department of Environmental Conservation to expedite the process, to get the plan in the Town of Cheektowaga moving,” Kennedy said.
Town Supervisor Mary F. Holtz, who is retiring when her second term expires in December, said she’s dealt with the issue throughout her tenure. The town recently issued $12 million in bonds to begin lining some sewer lines, as required by the DEC.
“Unfortunately, it’s a big nut to crack for residents of the Town of Cheektowaga,” Holtz said. “It will be a long-term project; very expensive for the community.”
Town Engineer Patrick Bowen said that a sewer-lining project is expected to begin before the end of this year in the section of the town that is north of the Kensington Expressway and west of Harlem Road.
“That will help eliminate some of the inflow,” Bowen said. The plan is to create a relief sewer and eliminate two existing pumps at the Roycroft Pump Station that currently discharge diluted, raw sewage into the ditch, which is a tributary of Scajaquada Creek.
In Buffalo, the ribbon was cut on a project to demolish a condemned building and create a public waterfront park and paddle-sport launch at 1660 Niagara St.
Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper and Buffalo Niagara River Land Trust are collaborating with local community groups on the almost $850,000 project, which is being funded through state and federal grants, as well as the New York State Power Authority.
“For generations, Scajaquada Creek has been an abandoned waterway that still suffers from pollution and limited public access,” said Jill Jedlicka, executive director of Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper. “Just like we have seen in the Buffalo River and the Outer Harbor, by prioritizing public access and water quality, the increased community use of our waterways can play an important role in stimulating additional investment and recovery.”