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City of Lockport plans tests on water supply line to ensure stability for blasting at quarry

LOCKPORT – An engineering firm retained by the city has been asked to quote a price for testing along the municipal water supply line from the Niagara River to confirm that the 110-year-old pipeline can stand up to blasting from a stone quarry.

The results will be decisive in the Common Council’s decision on whether to grant a permit to Lafarge North America to expand its quarry by 9.9 acres within the city limits.

There won’t be a vote until the plans for testing are received from CRA, the engineering firm, Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano said.

Asked when the testing might be done, Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey said, “I don’t know, and that, to me, is the critical piece in our decision-making. If the line were in poor condition, we would have to reconsider the special use permit or other measures to ensure its protection.”

CRA representatives told city officials Thursday that they generally agree with the scientific analysis by a firm that Lafarge hired. Greystone Engineering of Saratoga Springs, based on some test blasts and complex calculations, decided that the impact of the blasting in the quarry would be less than the pressure exerted on the 36-inch pipe by the locomotives that rumbled above it for decades. The pipeline past the quarry on Hinman Road runs beneath what was once an active railroad track.

Ottaviano said CRA’s plan is to dig a couple of test pits to examine the exterior condition of the pipeline, as well as trying to insert a remote-controlled television camera inside the line to check the interior conditions.

Perry A. Galdenzi, Lafarge project manager, said the company is committed to making sure that any vibration from its blasting wiggles the line less than the amount permitted by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

“We’re willing to stick our neck out on the line, because we believe there’s very low likelihood of any damage, period,” Galdenzi said.

Ottaviano said the city intends to make Lafarge pay any repair costs, as well as the 75 cents per 1,000 gallons that the city would have to pay the Niagara County Water District for backup water. If the tests show that the pipeline needs to be replaced before the quarry expands, Ottaviano said, making Lafarge pay for that might be “a last resort.”

The aggregate, as the company calls the stone that it quarries, in the 9.9-acre expansion would keep the company going for only a year, according to Lafarge, which says that it has about a year’s worth of stone left in its current pit.

“We would replace what needs to be fixed. No discussions have taken part about replacing the water line,” Galdenzi said. “For the sake of one year of aggregate, I’m not sure the economics are there for that.”

The 110-year-old part of the line is the last three miles closest to the city filtration plant, including the segment that runs past the quarry. The other 10 miles from North Tonawanda have been replaced in the last 30 years.

“I would still like Lafarge to commit to do something more to protect that pipe,” said Alderman Patrick W. Schrader, chairman of the Council’s Water and Sewer Committee.

He said that the county has a problem meeting all its demand now in the summer and that another possible backup water source, the Outwater Park water tower, contains 16 hours’ worth of water, not 24 hours as Ottaviano previously said. But it doesn’t really matter how much is in there, because at the moment, the city can’t pump it out efficiently.

“There’s a pump out there that we’d have to get rebuilt that hasn’t worked in ‘forever,’ ” Schrader said.