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Niagara County communities get state funding for sewer projects

LOCKPORT – Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has announced $2.7 million in aid for sewer-related projects in Niagara County, with the largest project coming in the City of Lockport.

The state’s NY Rising program is granting Lockport $1.5 million for a sewer separation project on High Street, inspired by the June 2013 flash flood that swamped the city sewer system.

Another major chunk of state aid is heading for Niagara Falls, which is to receive $675,000 for emergency power installations at its sewage treatment plant and in its sewer system.

The Town of Lockport is receiving $325,000 for emergency power systems for its sewer pump stations, and Wheatfield will be granted $200,000 for standby generators for its sewer lift stations.

Wheatfield Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe said the town has two portable generators.

“However, by the time we receive calls from the neighborhood and get crews pulled in to hook up these generators, there may already have been damages. What could be worse than a basement filled with raw sewage?” Cliffe said.

In 80 percent of the City of Lockport, storm water and sanitary sewage runs to the sewage treatment plant in the same pipes. That fact contributed to the damage in the system when the city was hit by a massive afternoon downpour June 28, 2013.

“That volume was unbelievable. It was something we’d never seen before,” Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey said. After being told two years ago to apply for NY Rising aid, city department heads and supervisors concluded that given the layout of the system, a sewer upgrade on High Street would produce “the biggest bang for the buck,” the mayor said.

The plan is to install new mains so storm and sanitary sewage are in separate pipes. The storm runoff would go, not to the treatment plant, but into the Erie Canal via an old overflow drain near the Stevens Street Bridge. The drain is to be reopened and reconnected.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation will monitor that discharge. “We will do as much as we can with the $1.5 million,” said McCaffrey, who hopes a contractor can be hired in time to start work this year.

Also on June 28, 2013, the 5-inch downpour caused the Town of Lockport sewer system to shut down and sewage to back up into basements, so the state grant will pay for emergency generators at several locations.

McCaffrey said the DEC will require a filtering system to keep asphalt and other grit out of the Erie Canal.

In Niagara Falls, there also are no permanently installed backup power sources in the sewer system. The grant money will be used to replace and upgrade an old diesel-powered generator at the treatment plant and place other permanent generators at key lift stations.

Cuomo, who made several visits to Niagara County in the summer of 2013 after flash floods in Lockport and the Falls, said in his announcement that the state set aside $3 million specifically for Niagara County as part of a $15 million state addition to a $600 million federal block grant for disaster recovery in New York State.