Residents in Derby went for hours without water, Tuesday, due to another busted main, this time it was an underground pipe at the corner of Lake Shore Road and Wellington Drive, but now they say the leaks are getting worse.
Nora Bouvier, who lives on Schuyler Drive, said the Town of Evans’ old rusting underground pipes need to be replaced, “We have more water main breaks than ever before, it seems like, which is the infrastructure.”
The Town of Evans had troubles keeping up its water department for decades, and then agreed to turn the maintenance and repair of their water lines over to the Erie County Water Authority in 2013.
Now as Evans residents bail water out of their yards and basements–not from heavy rain, but leaking water mains–town officials say they need a better deal with the ECWA to fix those leaks, and Town Supervisor Mary Hosler says her predecessors in town government made a deal that is not working out for town.
When town officials turned over the water department to the ECWA there was a belief that the water authority would be taking over everything–maintenance, management, billing, and upgrades.
But as it turns out, the contract was what is known as a “lease manage” agreement, where the county repairs the pipes when they break or leak, but replacing those aging water lines is still the town’s responsibility.
Evans officials even borrowed more than $12 million in 2007 to upgrade their water infrastructure, but Hosler says the cost has more than doubled and after more than $3 million in additional state grants, the only thing they have been able to do is design a new water tower which is still on the drawing board.
The supervisor also believes the contract with the water authority needs to be re-worked because Evans property owners are already paying for infrastructure management in their county water bills, even though the ECWA says infrastructure is the town’s responsibility.
“Doesn’t that mean that our residents are being double-dipped for the same infrastructure?” fumed Hosler, “If I fix something I have to charge our residents for it. Aren’t they paying that infrastructure charge already through the bill of Erie County Water Authority?”
A spokesman for the Erie County Water Authority said there is nothing out of the ordinary in their lease manage contract with the Town of Evans adding, if the ECWA took on the cost of upgrading Evans’ old pipes, they would have to pass that cost along to other users.