NIAGARA FALLS – While part of Western New York has been suffering from severe drought conditions this summer, a water line break in Niagara Falls has gone unfixed for six weeks, spewing gallons onto a street and angering residents.
Niagara Falls Water Board Executive Director Paul Drof said Wednesday that they have been aware of the leak in the 8100 block of West Rivershore Drive since July 11, but he said it was not a priority because there have been other bigger breaks that required quicker repairs.
Drof said he did not know how much water has been lost, but said water quality and water pressure have not been affected.
Drought conditions have not affected Niagara County, Drof said, noting there is sufficient water supply because of the Niagara River. He said there have been no drought ordinances in Niagara County or the City of Niagara Falls.
But some residents who live near the water line break are upset it hasn’t been fixed.
AnnLouise Carosella, of West Rivershore Drive, said initially the break looked like a wet spot left by a vehicle, but then it just kept growning, bubbling up at the curb and running down the street.
“In the morning it’s about four or five feet into the road - this huge puddle, all the way down four or five houses,” said Carosella. “Over the weekend one of the neighbors down the street put a sign on the curb that said ‘No Wake’ - like you have along the river - but the sign got so saturated from being splashed that it came apart.”
“The Water Board came out and marked the curb, but since then nothing has been done,” she said.
She said she and all the neighbors have been reaching out to the mayor’s office without success.
“We’d better get it fixed before winter or we’ll have a huge ice rink,” said Carosella.
Drof said they plan to address the West Rivershore break, but noted that he walked into his office on Wednesday morning and learned of a larger water main break on Ontario Avenue, which was affecting service and had flooded the street.
“We prioritize our breaks. First are main line breaks, secondly are breaks which cause people to have no water or low water pressure and third is the catch all we can,” said Drof.
That didn’t satisfy Carosella.
“We’re the highest taxed part of the city and we can’t get a small leak repaired,” she complained.
Drof said the Water Board continually responds to breaks throughout the city, two to three a day.
He said the soil conditions on Cayuga Island and the water table tend to lead to more breaks in the Rivershore Drive area, but this summer’s heat has lead to a multitude of breaks throughout the city.
Dyster said people usually think of February and frozen water lines when they think of breaks, but he said this summer has been one of the worst.
Drof said the drier the soil, the more it contracts from the pipes, which causes the pipes to flex and break. In the winter time there are different patterns which cause pipes to flex and break.
“There’s been no respite between the cold weather and the freezing and the warm weather and the drought conditions. Our crews are out there working,” said Drof. He said the hot summer has also slowed down the crews, who need extra breaks when working outside.
“Yes, people are calling. Yes, we are embarrassed and yes, this is irritating. We are trying our best to get to them, but we have to reassess daily,” said Drof.
He said the West Rivershore leak is on the Water Board’s list and is scheduled to be addressed before the end of the week - “if nothing else takes its place.”
Water main breaks have caused friction between residents and the Water Board for years.
In December 2015, the city spent $1 million to replace and bury deeper, 3,000 feet of eight-inch water pipes on 72nd Street, where frozen lines had left hundreds of residents without water two winters in a row. The city shouldered the responsibility when the Water Board would not pay for the project.
On Thursday, the city announced it had secured a $405,840 grant from the state Environmental Facilities Corporation for repairs to the water system. Grants announced by state Sen. Robert G. Ortt and Assemblyman John Ceretto have provided another $375,000 for the repairs.