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State calls for sanitary sewer work

State officials are pushing Amherst to invest as much as $5 million to improve sanitary sewers in the Eggertsville area and to halt discharges of untreated sewage during storm-water runoffs.

Amherst Engineer Jeffrey S. Burroughs briefed Town Board members this week on the state's push to end Amherst's sanitary sewer overflows.

In a letter to town officials in early December, state regulators asked the town to sign a consent order agreeing to pay a $5,000 fine for past sewage discharges. The order also would commit Amherst to repair or rebuild sewers at three locations -- on Kings Highway, North Drive and Capen Boulevard -- where the town has released sewage during heavy storm-water runoffs.

"They used to design the systems to work this way," said Megan Boyce Green, spokeswoman for the regional office of the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

"If you had a high flow, [the sewage] would go directly into a water body. And what we know now is that's not a good idea -- that these sewer overflows are turning out to be a large source of pollution for our waterways. So we're trying to correct that problem," she said.

The discharges, which total about one-tenth of a percent of the annual amount of sewage treated by the town, were reported to state officials, Burroughs said.

He said the cost of repairing the sewers has been estimated at between $2 million and $5 million.

The sewers, some of them 80 years old and made of clay, are prone to leaks and infiltration. State officials noted that they were aware of the discharges and of the town's attempts to eliminate overflow problems in other areas. They now want to eliminate the last three problem sites.

Boyce Green said other towns, including Tonawanda, with 94 discharge locations, and Cheektowaga, with 16, have been working with state officials for several years to improve their systems.

Amherst officials said state regulators have warned the town of large daily fines if the discharges are not eliminated.

e-mail: tdolan@buffnews.com

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