Local leaders question who is responsible for water main system in Erie County

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Police are working to identify a man suspected of stealing a car with a dog inside, April 12, 2016. (KOIN)_293486

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – More than a dozen water main breaks is now putting the spotlight on who is responsible for keeping Erie County’s piping system above water. It’s been almost one week since a major leak in Amherst led to a boil water notice for more than 200-thousand people. But questions are still being raised on whether local leaders handled this situation the right way.

Local leaders question how the Erie County Water Authority handled the massive main break in Amherst last week. County Legislator Ted Morton with the Energy and Environmental Committee now wants a public hearing with the ECWA.

He said, “About the boiling of the water, the potential hazards to the residents that were affected, it seemed like there was a long amount of time between what had happened, until an official announcement was made.”

He’s not happy with how this was communicated and how the water authority is dealing with aging infrastructure. He said, “One of the things I want to find out at the hearing, is what is their plan, short, medium long-term to repair the infrastructure.”

At a town hall meeting, held over the phone, Monday, ECWA Commissioner, Earl Jann says there has been an $11 million dollar increase this year in capital spending with most of that money going towards pipe replacement.

He said, “529 miles of old cast iron pipe 22 miles of the concrete pipe this is all stuff that accounts for better than 80 percent of all of our leaks.” He also said National Grid was digging in this area and believes that may have caused the problem.

But a spokesperson, Peter Stella, released this statement saying: “All work being done by National Grid in this area over the past week or so has been done about a half-mile from where the recent water main break occurred. At this time we have no information that would indicate our work impacted the water main.”

Meanwhile, Jann says there was never a need for the county health department to issue a boil water notice in the first place. He said, “We think an awful lot of people were upset for no reason.”

But Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein says they checked with state health officials for advice on whether to issue the alert after they discovered the system had  a drop in pressure.

The Health Department said A collaborative decision was made based on:

-Reports from emergency managers of low pressure and dry lines throughout northern Erie County

-Reports of low pressure, dry lines and highly discolored water from residents in the affected regions

-Analysis of water tank pressure by an ECDOH Professional Engineer

-Consultation with NYSDOH experts regarding the sanitary code and potential impacts on area hospitals

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