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Crews work on grease-clogged sewer to avert flooding

Part of the Village of Lancaster's sanitary sewer system clogged Monday because of illegally dumped cooking grease, and Department of Public Works crews and a private contractor were working into the night to prevent flooding in neighbors' basements.

Village officials were worried the badly clogged sanitary sewer main could lead to flooding in homes on several streets that sit between Broadway and Cayuga Creek behind the Lancaster Municipal Building.

The cooking grease likely comes from a restaurant in the village improperly disposing of the waste in Lancaster's sewer system, and Mayor William G. Cansdale Jr. on Monday directed the village's code enforcement officer to investigate the source of the clog.

"We want to make sure we take appropriate action so that it doesn't happen again," Cansdale said at Monday's meeting.

While flooding during periods of heavy rain has been a problem in basements in several village neighborhoods in recent years, this sewer backup had nothing to do with Monday's precipitation, Cansdale said.

Instead, village public works crews found cooking grease dumped into the sanitary sewer had clogged a segment of the system at a point on the eastern bank of Cayuga Creek near the bridge that carries Broadway over the creek.

The clog is located 25 feet below ground level, making it a challenge for village crews and contract workers, Cansdale said after the meeting.

Further, the grease is so compacted that standard measures to blast out the clog in the sanitary sewer weren't working, he said. Crews will be at the scene pumping out the sewer main well into the night, the mayor said.

"It's going to be an expensive repair," said Cansdale, who added after the meeting he did not yet have a cost estimate.

The streets where residents were at risk of basement flooding are Park Boulevard, Colonial Avenue and Cayuga Avenue.

The village has found cooking grease in its sanitary sewers before and has undertaken temporary fixes to the problem, but Cansdale at Monday's meeting asked Code Enforcement Officer George Pease to investigate the matter and find the source of the grease.

"We're looking for a long-term solution," the mayor said after the meeting.

Also Monday, the Village Board appointed Scott Kuhlmey, 37, as fire chief of the village's 120-member fire department.

Kuhlmey was elected by his fellow volunteer firefighters to the position, which carries a two-year term of office. He replaces James N. Robinson, 44, whose two-year term in the job had expired, and will earn an annual stipend of $5,200.

Kuhlmey, a deputy with the Erie County Sheriff's Office, had served for the past two years as the most senior of the department's three assistant fire chiefs and, by department tradition, was next in line for the top job.

He joined the department as a junior firefighter, at 14, and became a full firefighter four years later, in 1992.