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NEW HIGHLAND ACRES SEWER DISTRICT RAISES CONCERN

Many concerns were raised about the creation of a new sewer district in the Highland Acres area of the Town of Hamburg during a public hearing Monday night.

But a statement from an Erie County Health Department official angered some in the audience of residents, many in favor of the sewage district.

After hearing concerns raised by some of the several-dozen residents attending the hearing, John Finster, a health engineer, said that if the district is not established, "We don't feel the Health Department needs to cut anybody any slack," and standards would be strictly enforced.

"I think we are being threatened," responded resident Samira Khatib.

Ms. Khatib, charging that politicians wasted millions of dollars on that "cesspool at Woodlawn Beach," said she and her neighbors had strength in their numbers and would not be intimidated.

Aging septic systems in the neighborhood are blamed for polluting Rush Creek, which is one source of pollution at Woodlawn Beach State Park. Constructing sewers in Highland Acres would help alleviate contamination that sometimes forces the closing of the beach to swimming.

Since the town has already received a petition favoring the project with signatures from more than 50 percent of the district's residents, the issue currently facing the board is which sewage treatment plant should receive the sewage.

The choice before residents and the Town Board is between the Blasdell wastewater treatment facility or Erie County's Southtowns sewage treatment facility.

"This is an opportunity no matter where we go," said Town Supervisor Patrick Hoak, who noted that the town is planning to establish the new sewer district but that no action would be taken until Nov. 10 at the earliest.

Hoak said the town plans to apply for state funding to offset the proposed $2.5 million cost.

State Assemblyman Richard Smith, D-Hamburg, said the state funds could cover about 75 percent of the project's total cost, adding that the project is a priority of Gov. Pataki because of its impact on Woodlawn Beach.

A public information hearing for residents and users of the proposed sewer district is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Big Tree Elementary School on Bay View Road in Hamburg.

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