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City of Lockport, Lafarge working on blasting deal

LOCKPORT – The City of Lockport and Lafarge North America are negotiating a deal that would allow the company to expand its stone quarry within city limits while committing the company to paying for any repairs needed to the city’s raw water supply pipe from the Niagara River.

The 36-inch main, which was installed in 1905, runs past the Lafarge quarry on Hinman Road. The Common Council held a lengthy public hearing Wednesday night on the company’s request for a special use permit for the 9.9-acre expansion of the quarry, but did not vote.

Thursday, Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano said he is trying “to fashion a special-use permit that would allow expansion of the quarry while protecting the city’s water supply.”

He said the city has several backup water supply options, so an interruption to the 13-mile main pipe from North Tonawanda wouldn’t shut down the city.

Ottaviano said he doesn’t expect the agreement with Lafarge to be complete until late July, so unless a special meeting is called, the soonest the Council would vote is Aug. 5.

Specifically, Lafarge would be required to post a performance bond – the amount hasn’t been settled – and commit to paying for any damage to the pipeline.

Lafarge project manager Perry Galdenzi said CRA, an engineering firm hired by the city to review a study by Lafarge’s engineers, is expected to set limits on the amount of permissible vibration in the ground from blasting in the expanded quarry.

The company will monitor that with a seismograph to be installed over the pipeline, which is buried six feet underground. If there’s trouble, the strength and location of the blasting can be altered.

“If we exceed those parameters and the waterline breaks, we will repair it,” Galdenzi said. “If the waterline breaks and we didn’t exceed those parameters, then it broke because it’s a 110-year-old waterline.”

Ottaviano said the city’s main backup is the Niagara County Water District, whose system connects with the city’s at the Summit Street filtration plant. He noted that a new connecting valve was installed in April and the city actually used county water for three days during the valve test, and residents didn’t notice.

There are also two storage tanks. The Outwater Park water tower holds enough water to be the city’s exclusive water source for 24 hours, Ottaviano said, and there also is a reserve tank at the filtration plant.

“And as a final backup – we don’t want to use it, it’s not good water – we’ve got canal water,” Ottaviano said.

Ottaviano said if the city’s has to buy county water because of Lafarage blasting, Lafarge will have to pay for it.

“All these safeguards will prevent the citizens from experiencing any disruption of service or quality of water,” Ottaviano said.

Galdenzi said the 9.9 acres of land the company wants to mine contains an estimated 1.5 million tons of “aggregate,” the Lockport dolomite-based stone that the company mines as a main ingredient in road-paving materials certified acceptable by the state Department of Transportation. “That’s one year’s production for us,” Galdenzi said, adding that the mine produces between 1.3 million and 2 million tons of stone annually.