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Lafarge to indemnify Lockport if blasting harms city water supply line

LOCKPORT – Lafarge North America promised Wednesday to pay for repairs of any breaks in the city’s drinking water supply line that may be caused by blasting in an expanded quarry within the city limits.

The Common Council will vote next week on a special use permit to allow the blasting on a 9-acre site off Hinman Road, which Lafarge project manager Perry A. Galdenzi said contains enough stone to keep the company going until it can win permission for a new 220-acre quarry on the south side of Hinman Road in the Town of Lockport.

Stephen C. Waldvogel of GHD, an engineering firm hired by the city, said the last 2 miles of the 30-inch main were laid in 1907, a slightly earlier date than mentioned in previous discussions. The other 11 miles of the pipeline from the Niagara River at North Tonawanda were replaced at various times between 1971 and 1992, but the 2 miles closest to the city filtration plant are original, except for the Erie Canal crossing, replaced in 1980.

Waldvogel said excavations and ground-penetrating radar were used to check the condition of parts of the pipe. He said that most of the steel was close to the original quarter-inch thickness, but that at the bottom of the pipe, there was significant corrosion, with the worst parts being as thin as .031 inch, or half the thickness of a dime.

Asked if Lafarge’s blasting would rupture the pipeline, Waldvogel said, “It’s highly unlikely that it would, and the city can prepare themselves in case of that eventuality.”

He explained, “We’ve assumed a majority of the blast will be dissipated and absorbed by the bedrock well below the pipe.” The pipeline is buried 4 to 8 feet below the surface, with radar showing at least one area 12 feet deep.

Galdenzi said Lafarge will post a $500,000 bond to pay for any breaks caused by blasting in a 1,400-foot portion of the line closest to the blast site. That coverage will begin on the first day of blasting and continue until 30 days after the last explosion.

Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano said it will be assumed that any break in that stretch of the pipe during blasting season is Lafarge’s fault.

“The total length of the area we’re mining is 1,000 feet,” Galdenzi said. “I think 1,400 feet is very generous.”

He also said Lafarge will pay up to $50,000, before blasting begins, to replace the city’s interconnection valve with the Niagara County Water District system. That is the city’s source of backup water if the 30-inch line from the Niagara River is shut down.

The county will charge the city for the backup water, and Galdenzi said Lafarge will pay for that water if the switch-over results from a blasting-related pipeline break.

If there are too many breaks, Galdenzi said, “the city can pull the special-use permit.”

Thomas G. Schwallie, Lafarge manager of U.S. construction services, said the blasting will begin 1,300 feet from the pipeline and gradually work toward it.

Galdenzi said the company is promising not to get any closer than 500 feet from the pipeline this year, although the state Department of Environmental Conservation will allow blasting within 300 feet of the line.

Blasting won’t begin until late summer at the earliest, Galdenzi said. “My guess is, we’ll be within this area for two years,” he said.

The city is planning a bond issue for most of the estimated $5 million cost of replacing the line, and also is seeking a state grant of up to $2 million to pay part of the cost. Waldvogel urged the city to replace the last 2 miles of the line soon.