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Engineering pact awarded for sewer replacement

A project to replace the main sanitary sewer serving the eastern half of the Town of Tonawanda was launched in earnest Monday night, when an engineering contract was awarded by the Town Board.

Conestoga-Rovers and Associates was hired for approximately $1.7 million. The project's estimated cost is between $25 million and $37 million, and construction may take up to seven years.

State and federal support isn't likely, officials said. As a result, "Town residents are going to be asked to bear the brunt of these costs," said Councilman Joseph H. Emminger, chairman of the Town Board's Water Resources Committee.

Bryan Smith, vice president of CRA, told lawmakers earlier Monday that his firm will pursue the lowest possible cost to town residents.

"This is very deep and somewhat risky sewer pipe construction," Smith said.

The project involves the Parker-Fries interceptor, the main sanitary sewer that serves an area ranging from the Youngmann Highway down to Berkley Street, and from Parker Boulevard to Niagara Falls Boulevard. In discussion for more than a decade, the work has become more urgent because of a mandate by state and federal regulatory agencies prohibiting sanitary sewer overflows.

During wet weather, the sanitary sewer has overflowed into the storm sewer. That has kept water out of basements but not out of Ellicott Creek.

The existing 30-inch main is approximately 60 years old and severely deteriorated in places, according to John S. Camilleri, the town's director of water resources. New pipes will range from 36 to 72 inches in diameter, depending on their proximity to the Parker-Fries pumping station -- the town's largest.

"This job does scare me -- it does," Camilleri conceded. "It's mainly because . . . [of] the challenges it presents."

Technical challenges include working around a storm sewer that runs parallel to the sanitary sewer; potential surprises lurk below the surface.

"It is going to be disruptive -- make no mistake about that," Camilleri said. "We have to minimize these disruptions to the public."

Residents never will be without service during construction, Camilleri said.

The work will involve replacing 19,000 feet of the main sewer line and another 20,000 feet of adjoining sewer lines, Camilleri said, likening them to the aorta and veins in a human body.

Because of the project's cost and complexity, engineering services will include a public relations strategy. Steve Waldvogel is handling that job for CRA.

"We want to gain stakeholder buy-in from the beginning," Waldvogel said. "We need to gain their support, up front, to be advocates for the project."

"This is going to be an open book so everybody will know what's going on," Emminger emphasized to residents at the Town Board meeting. Engineering will take a full year, and, assuming the state Department of Environmental Conservation approves the final plan, construction wouldn't begin until spring of 2010.


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