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Erie County taking steps to ease sewer overflows

Erie County will see this spring if a major sewer project in the South Towns will alleviate sewage-based pollution flowing through Woodlawn Beach.

Erie County has a mass of overflow valves in various sewer systems, whether the county system, the Buffalo system or some of the other sewer networks in the county. When heavy rains or spring thaws come along, the sewer lines can be overwhelmed and sewage-contaminated water overflows into streams.

That's been a long-time problem feeding into Rush Creek, which flows through Woodlawn Beach on its way to Lake Erie.

"The Rush Creek project kind of looked at the whole system really regionally and there was also elimination of three pumping stations and also elimination of the Blasdell waste water treatment plant," said Erie County Deputy Commissioner of Environment and Planning Joseph Fiegl.

"So, it's also led to more efficient operations and then also allowed us to increase electrical usage and things like that."

Updates in technology, Fiegl pointed out, are helping to ease a longstanding environmental problem.

"You put in what are called area velocity probes into the sewer system and you put these bands into the flow," Fiegl said.

"What it does is it measures the level and measures the velocity. And, when you have level and you have velocity, you can determine the amount of flow going through there. And then you look at what the flow is during dry weather and then look at what the flow is during wet weather."

Planners can review the information gathered to determine why there can be major variations between wet and dry weather flow. It may be caused by connections to lots of home downspouts or it may be caused by pipes which have separated underground.


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.