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Sewage system dealing with heavy water intake

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The rain and the melting snow from last week's storm didn't create as much flooding as officials feared, although several area creeks went past flood stage Monday and there is still concern about some creeks on Tuesday. Where there was a borderline problem was in the county's vast sewage management system. A lot of water flowed through sewer lines, mixing sewage and water collected from storm drains and downspouts.

Some of the runoff from Buffalo, Cayuga and Ellicott creeks goes into the drains on the street or comes down from house gutters and into combined storm and sanitary sewer systems.

"What happens in these type of events is we get what is called infiltration and inflow into the sanitary sewer system. And what that basically is it allows ground water and surface runoff to makes it way into cracks and other entryways into the sanitary sewer system. What that does is then increase the amount of flows going through," says Erie County's Director of Sewerage Management Joseph Fiegl.

Fiegl says this shows up in places like the sewage treatment plant in Woodlawn, across Route 5 from the Ford Plant. Usually a heavy day involves 16 million gallons of liquids a day. At times Monday, the flow was at the rate of 100 million gallons a day and bypassing the treatment plant.

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.