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Cheektowaga spending $18M to rid the air of that Scajaquada Creek smell

Town of Cheektowaga
A plastic waterpipe liner machine at work.

Scajaquada Creek runs right across Buffalo, even if much of it is underground, and for many they can smell the creek at the Cheektowaga line and when it comes out of Forest Lawn Cemetery and into Hoyt Lake. Cheektowaga is spending millions to resolve the odor.

As so often true, the problem is that northern Cheektowaga has a combined sewer system. When it rains or the snow melts, the sewers fill and overflow into Scajaquada Creek.

The town agreed to a consent decree to resolve that, something Supervisor Diane Benczkowski learned about even before she took office. She said the town has moved aggressively to fulfill what it agreed to, as Albany has put millions into the town's efforts - important when the plan was to cost $60 million. With the state's help, the effort may cost the town only $18 million, she said.

Benczkowski said there are a lot of projects. For four years, workers have been using elaborate machines which put a plastic lining on town sewer pipes - 50 miles of pipe - to eliminate water infiltration from surrounding soil.

"The big projects are the sanitary sewer. It's called the cured-in-place lining," said Benczkowski. "So we've been doing those over the last four years and we've also done the manhole rehabilitation, which they then seal that also. So that stops some of the inflow. So these are big projects that they have been doing."

The major goal is to cut down or cut off the stormwater. Sealing the sewer lines cuts off water infiltration into the pipe. Replacing the manhole covers cuts off stormwater coming through the holes in the old covers.

The big effort is to get homeowners to disconnect their downspouts from the sewer and there have been 3,000 homes with the downspouts disconnected. That leaves about the same number still to be disconnected in the north side of the town. South Cheektowaga has separate storm and sanitary sewers.

"Made sure that I told the DEC that our residents cannot afford to be putting in new laterals and new sump pumps," said Benczkowski. "We have to start small, just something very inexpensive, like just disconnecting your downspouts. That's very inexpensive. We cannot afford more than that."

She said Cheektowaga also put in place a Time of Sale Sewer Inspection Law: when homeowners are ready to sell, they need to call the town.

"An inspector has to come in and take a look at your connections and make sure that you're not dumping your storm water into the sanitary sewer," said Benczkowski.

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.