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Valve purchase may clear way for Lockport-North Tonawanda water deal

LOCKPORT – The City of Lockport’s possible purchase of water from the City of North Tonawanda may be facilitated by Lockport’s purchase of a new waterline valve last week.

The $21,115 valve allows Lockport to obtain a backup water supply from the Niagara County Water District, and vice versa.

The city will need the county’s water for a few days, perhaps this fall, as Lockport’s 13-mile water supply line from the Niagara River at North Tonawanda is tested to see if it can withstand the pumping of water that already has been treated with chemicals to make it safe to drink.

At present, that 36-inch line carries untreated or “raw water” from the river to Lockport, which treats it at a filtration plant on Summit Street.

In 2006, the two cities and Niagara Falls shared a $444,000 state grant to study the feasibility of a joint water system.

It was quickly determined that it was too difficult to pump water from elsewhere in the county to Niagara Falls, but Lockport and North Tonawanda continued to investigate a deal.

Lockport Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey said a cost analysis was done a few years ago, and showed that Lockport would save money on labor and chemicals by buying North Tonawanda’s water instead of treating its own. The price of the water itself hasn’t been determined.

“We’re hoping it’ll be a landmark savings for both municipalities,” North Tonawanda Mayor Robert G. Ortt said.

“That grant is still in place. The inspection is still planned,” McCaffrey said. “I think it’s possible it could be done this fall.”

Ortt said, “The timing of the inspection we do has to be when the water flows are low.” The April-May and October-November periods are regarded as the best choices.

“We have to make sure our backup water supply is working before we do that test,” McCaffrey said.

That’s where the new two-way valve comes in. Payments by the county Water District and a reimbursable grant are covering all but $1,074 of the valve purchase from Koester Associates of Canastota.

It allows county water to flow into Lockport’s system, or treated Lockport water may be sent into the county’s pipes. That arrangement has been in place for many years, but the current damaged valve has prevented it from being done recently.

Lockport Alderman Patrick W. Schrader said, “The line is all set up, ready to go.” He said once the valve is installed, the test of whether the aged parts of Lockport’s supply line can handle treated water will be scheduled and will last three or four days.

The notion of Lockport simply buying the county’s water also was discussed a few years ago and not definitively settled. The county charges 75 cents per 1,000 gallons.

Lockport and North Tonawanda each appropriated $24,445 in 2012 to pay for the testing by the engineering firm Conestoga-Rovers & Associates. But it’s up to the county Health Department to make the final ruling.

The three miles closest to the river are the most sensitive area, since they are more than 80 years old. The other 10 miles of pipeline were replaced in the 1990s.

There also would have to be work in North Tonawanda to connect its filtration plant on Tonawanda Island with Lockport’s supply line, which takes water from the river off River Road near Wheatfield Street. A few years ago, the cost of that aspect of the plan was estimated at $3 million.