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Lafarge pledges to pay if blasting wrecks Lockport water supply

LOCKPORT – Lafarge North America is willing to post a bond to pay for immediate repairs if its blasting ruptures the City of Lockport’s water supply pipeline.

Perry Galdenzi, Lafarge project manager, made the pledge Wednesday as he appealed to the Common Council for a special use permit that would allow the company, which employs 39 people, to mine nine acres of land within city limits.

Galdenzi said the site contains 1.5 million tons of limestone, which is about the amount the company sells in a year.

Lafarge produces most of the limestone aggregate used in paving projects in Niagara County. Asphalt is 95 percent limestone, Galdenzi said.

The company plans a major new quarry on the south side of Hinman Road in the Town of Lockport that will keep it operating for 40 to 50 years, Galdenzi said. But it has to go through a lengthy Department of Environmental Conservation permit process, and win approval from the Town of Lockport.

“We’re quickly running out of stone, and when we’re out of stone, we’re out of business,” Galdenzi said. “We’re starting to hunt and peck through different areas of the quarry to stay alive.”

Even with the nine-acre parcel in the city, the company’s current site is almost exhausted. “With what we have left, we’d be lucky to last three years,” Galdenzi said.

But the city’s 30-inch waterline from the Niagara River runs past the quarry en route to the city filtration plant. The last three miles of the 13-mile line are original, which means that pipe is more than 100 years old. The blasting area in the nine-acre expansion would be as close as 300 feet from the pipe.

Brent Tardif, an Albany geologist and mining consultant hired by Lafarge, said the pipeline is “compromised … There’s areas of the pipe that’s relatively thin.”

This was shown by the use of ultrasound testing equipment by Lafarge’s engineering firm. Greystone Engineering of Saratoga Springs concluded that blasts 250 feet away would make the pipeline move only 0.01 inch.

“Having said that, it’s an old waterline. Waterlines break all the time,” Galdenzi said.

Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano said the city’s engineering firm, GHD, will report to the Council on the issue in two weeks. Lafarge paid the city’s cost for that study.

Ottaviano said the city won’t settle for Lafarge putting up repair money. “The parts and the pipe would have to be on site,” he said, and the city would have to be sure it has 24 to 72 hours worth of water on hand.

Galdenzi said Lafarge’s bond will pay for repairs if the company’s operations cause a break. “If it breaks two miles away, you’d be hard-pressed to say it’s our fault,” he said.