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Underground Buffalo lies the basis for city's new development

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National Public Radio

Our forbears expected Buffalo to be a great and giant city - and built for it. That base is serving to provide sewer service to accommodate current development projects. Across the city, there are projects built - under construction, in the planning stage, being dreamed about.

Giant warehouses have been turned into apartment complexes.  A medical complex is continuing to grow on the edge of downtown. Streets like Niagara and around Larkinville, which used to be lined by factories, are increasingly lined by those same buildings housing new residents.

What is there in common? Sewers.

The head of the Buffalo Sewer Authority says the infrastructure legacy of previous generations building for a planned larger city is serving the new developments of recent years.

"The city is pretty much designed, was designed for half-a-million people, says Sewer Authority General Manager Olulowole McFoy. "We shrank to 250,000. Basically that's half the size. Niagara Street was never intended to be residential, it was always a heavy commercial, light commercial area, but never the less, the utilities are there."

Because of the plans for the giant city, McFoy says developers are benefiting from giant sewers serving growing neighborhoods, built to accommodate the showers in all of those renovated factories that came on at the same early morning time on a work day.

"Over in Larkinville, we actually have one of our largest sewers, which is known as the Millrace Sewer, that runs right through that area, so we've had huge capacity because we did have industry there," McFoy says. "So we have very large sewers in those areas. Same thing kind of goes for Niagara Street where we have significant capacity in our sewers because there was industry there."

And, he says, Albany is keeping watch on what is going on.

"One of the things that we ask all of the developers to do is, when they come into our system, we are required if they are over 2,500 gallons per day, we are requiring them to do a downstream capacity analysis," he says. "That's something that comes to us from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. That is a requirement."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.