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County seeking to absorb town's remaining sewer districts

In Orchard Park, it's possible for town and Erie County sewer crews to be working one or two streets apart without coordinating their efforts, even though the end results are all going to the same sewage-processing plants.

That's something the county is hoping to change.

Thomas J. Whetham, the county's deputy commissioner of environment and planning, has made a pitch to the Town Board to absorb the town's remaining sewer districts into the county's system.

The county already manages most of the town's sewer lines. In some areas, the county's area surrounds town districts.

"We currently provide treatment service for the existing Town of Orchard Park districts," Whetham said, "and with the regulations that are in place for sanitary sewer wet-weather conditions, we would prefer to be in a position where we can make sure the infrastructure within those sewer districts is maintained and updated so we can reduce the amount of wet-weather flows we have to treat at our plant."

Essentially, the county's plants have been treating rainwater instead of sewage during some of the heavier rainfalls, he said, and there have also been problems with sanitary sewers overflowing into waterways.

"It's not just the Town of Orchard Park," Whetham said. "The infrastructure in our community in general is on the older side. It's symptomatic of Western New York in general."

The county has been approaching communities from Lancaster to Boston, trying to bring the various sewer authorities under one administration. The county already owns the sewage-treatment facilities handling most of the effluent.

Orchard Park officials were optimistic, but guarded, in their response.

"This is an interesting proposal," said Councilman David R. Kaczor. "One of the things we're always faced with is with older infrastructure; it can be quite expensive to replace, especially for districts.

"Obviously, the bigger the area you are, the more you spread out costs, because not everything hits at once."

Erie County has offered to take Orchard Park's lines as they are. It's likely the county would be willing to take on the handful of town sewer workers.

"That's what we've done with other communities in the past, and if we take on this area, we're taking on more infrastructure, and we're going to need the personnel who can provide the service," Whetham said. "We do have some vacancies in our division, and who better than the people who have previously worked there to know the infrastructure, the condition, where everything is located? It's kind of a natural."

Kaczor said he expects the Town Board to make a decision on the proposal within the next month, before any spring-summer construction starts.

e-mail: eploetz@buffnews.com

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