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North Tonawanda drainage problems are focus as sewer upgrade is OK’d

NORTH TONAWANDA – Over the last 25 years, the city has spent millions of dollars improving sewer lines to keep out stormwater.

City Engineer Dale W. Marshall called the work vital to keeping rainwater from being treated unnecessarily at the wastewater-treatment plant and stopping stormwater from causing sewage backups in homes.

He said the work – especially that done in the older parts of the city – is being noticed at the wastewater-treatment plant.

“There is excess capacity at the plant, but when we get stormwater, we can exceed our upper levels, because all that stormwater is getting in. Those guys at the plant would mobilize when a big storm would come in; and it’s not coming now,” Marshall added.

On Tuesday, the Common Council voted to award a $112,232 contract to NFP & Sons of North Tonawanda for a new sewer upgrade on Christiana Street, between Payne Avenue and Vandervoort Street.

Marshall said the roadway won’t need to be rebuilt, so the company’s bid was lower than expected. He said the savings should allow the city to do another similar project this year.

“It’s less water at the treatment plant, so it will pay for itself in a short time because you are not treating rainwater, and there will be less basement flooding,” Marshall said, adding that approving the project was an easy decision to make.

Another flooding issue discussed Tuesday by the Council involves Donner Creek, which needs to be cleaned up to prevent flooded properties.

To that end, Marshall said, residents on the east side of Witmer Road, between Walter Drive and Warner Avenue, have been asked to give easements so city crews can access 2,900 feet of Donner Creek.

“The problem is that, 200 years ago, that stream went to the river. Now, the railroad tracks are there, the highway is there and Gratwick-Riverside Park, which was a landfill, is in its way,” Marshall said. “Now, it is piped through those areas, so it tends to back up.”

He added that the city used to clean up Donner Creek routinely during the 1960s. But it hasn’t been cleaned out since then, and tree growth and silt are clogging the creek.

After the meeting, Marshall said that officials have not heard any opposition to the Donner Creek cleanup but that all Witmer residents along the creek have yet to weigh in. Opposition by just one resident, he added, could hold up the process.