Performance audit to evaluate Erie County Water Authority

Historic water main break leaves 100,000 residents without proper access to water

Michelle Schoeneman, candidate for the Erie County Legislature’s 10th District, has filed a letter with the New York State Authorities Budget Office urging the agency to conduct a formal performance audit of the Erie County Water Authority in light of the latest water main break that left 100,000 Erie County residents with limited access to water.

In her letter to the budget office, Schoeneman requested the performance audit under Title Two of the state’s Public Authorities law, hoping to answer questions for herself and other concerned citizens.

She said that despite its large, publicly funded budget and six-figure salaried employees, the Water Authority has failed to properly address the water infrastructure issues that have plagued the county and have led to numerous water main issues during the past several years.

“The problems may not simply be with who runs the [Water Authority] but may require a larger public policy discussion about the utility of an authority at all. However, without an outside examination by your agency, we cannot have that conversation,” she said.

Schoeneman added that the way in which the community decided to deliver water to homes in 1950 may no longer be the best way in 2017.

On Monday morning, the Water Authority lifted the temporary water restrictions in the Southtowns areas of Orchard Park, Aurora, East Aurora and Colden.

The restriction was put in place by the Water Authority to allow for the repair of a major water main break at the Sturgeon Point treatment plant, as stated in a press release from the organization.

“The Authority wants to thank their customers for voluntarily limiting their water use during this project — the most difficult repair in the 68-year history of the [Water Authority],” the release said.

Because of a series of complications, the Water Authority brought in outside experts to accomplish what it described as a sturdy but temporary repair.

A specialist from Hydra Tech Inc., out of Cincinnati, and two authority staff entered the 42-inch pipe from inside the treatment plant, crawling about 40 feet into the site of the break. The release said providing adequate oxygen and light was a primary challenge.

“Deep in the pipe and almost 20 feet down, the men repaired the leak — a hole about the size of a baseball — from the inside, laying on their backs in six inches of water with groundwater flowing back into the pipe onto them through the hole,” the release said.

While this is a temporary fix, the Water Authority said it will hold much longer than it will take for a permanent repair of the leak from outside the pipe.

“While there is still some way to go to complete this repair, the Authority is now confident this will soon come to an end,” the release said. “We have never been more proud of the talent, training, experience, courage and devotion of the hardworking men and women of the [Erie County Water Authority].”

Link to Article