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Zebra mussels damaging Lockport water intake

LOCKPORT - Zebra mussels, the invasive mollusks that have made their presence known throughout the Great Lakes in recent years, are part of the reason that the City of Lockport needs to make repairs to its water intake pipe in the Niagara River.

Lockport's drinking water is pumped 13 miles from a station on the river near the end of Wheatfield Street in North Tonawanda.

Wednesday, the Common Council voted to seek bids for two sets of repairs to the North Tonawanda intake pipe. The city has an $800,000 grant in hand from the state Dormitory Authority which should pay for most or all of the work, Director of Finance Scott A. Schrader said.

The intake in the river is surrounded by a wooden protective structure called a crib. Dennis McNamara, Lockport's director of water treatment, said its purpose is to keep large pieces of debris out of the intake.

An inspection by Allen Marine Services showed that zebra mussels are causing deterioration in the crib as well as in the intake grating and the pipe itself. The last maintenance work at the site was done in the 1990s, McNamara said.

Michael T. Marino of the Nussbaumer & Clarke engineering firm, a consultant to the city, said the new crib will be made of polyethelene. "Zebra mussels don't attach to it," he said.

At the pumping plant on the river bank in North Tonawanda, Lockport plans to install new screens over the pipe's discharge into the pumps. The screens catch fish and smaller pieces of debris before the water is pumped 13 miles to Lockport, where it is treated at another plant before being sent into the city's waterlines.

"The repairs are at two ends of the same pipe," City Engineer Rolando Moreno told the Council.

The screens will actually be far more expensive than the repairs in the river, which Marino said would cost $50,000 to $80,000.

"The problem with the crib is, you have to have divers do it," Schrader said. He said if there isn't enough money left over from the screen replacement to pay for the crib repairs, the city will find another funding source, possibly falling back on borrowing.

Once the water reaches Lockport, it's fluoridated, and the city is planning to apply for a state grant to pay for a new 3,500-gallon fluoridation tank and two pumps.

McNamara said the tank is more than 30 years old, while the pumps have started to give out after about 12 years because the city bought a cheaper model than it could have. The estimated cost of that work is about $50,000.

The Council also voted Wednesday to have C.F. Wolcott General Contracting of Lockport install three new storm sewer receivers at Weld and Cedar streets for $15,950. Both sides of Weld Street also are to be regraded. The work should resolve a long-standing issue of flooding of yards during heavy rain, Moreno said.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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