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Southtowns water restrictions lifted following temporary repair

The water restrictions in the Southtowns were lifted Monday morning, the Erie County Water Authority announced.

The restrictions were put in place Aug. 6 due to repairs on a major water main break at the Sturgeon Point treatment plant. The repair, while temporary, is expected to hold up until the water authority can permanently repair the leak, officials said.

The pipe services more than 100,000 Southtown residents in 13 communities. Up to 1.5 million gallons of water escaped each day, said Russell Stoll, executive engineer at the authority.

Despite extensive leakage most Southtown residents did not experience a noticeable drop in water pressure, according to Earl Jann, the agency's executive director.

The leaking concrete-encased pipe was located 25 feet underground and between a larger water main pipe and a high-voltage electrical utility box. To reach it a hole was dug and the excavated sides were lined with protective sheeting to prevent loose dirt and shale from falling on workers, said Stoll.

Three people, one specialist from Hydra Tech Inc. of Cincinnati, Ohio and two water authority staff, entered the 42-inch pipe and crawled about 40 feet to the site of the break on Friday. They repaired the leak, a baseball-sized hole, from the inside using a rubber seal. The trio lay on their backs in six inches of water while groundwater flowed onto them through the hole, water officials said.

Tim Selph, a crew chief who was one of the workers that completed the repair, said he was inside the pipe for about 90 minutes.

About 30 people, including contractors, engineers and specialists, took part in the nine-day effort to repair the leak, which cost more than $1 million, according to the water authority. It was the authority's most difficult repair in its 68-year history.

The authority plans to undertake a more permanent fix to the pipe within two to three weeks, Stoll said.

Meanwhile, Michelle Schoeneman, a candidate for the Erie County Legislature’s 10th District, requested Monday that the New York State Authorities Budget Office conduct a performance audit of the water authority.

Despite a large publicly funded budget and well salaried employees the water authority hasn’t properly addressed water infrastructure issues over the past few years, Schoeneman said.

“The fact may be that the way in which we as a community decided the best way to deliver water to homes in 1950 is no longer the best way to deliver water in 2017,” Schoeneman said in a news release.


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