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By the numbers: Nearly $3M to fix a 1M-gallon water main leak

Mike Desmond

Remember that Erie County Water Authority leak at its Sturgeon Point treatment plant last August, which left the Southtowns with severe water problems? The final touches on the repair were finally done last week.

It was more than six months ago when the nightmare began: a 42" water line 40' down, below a 48" line that ran across it and both lines were topped by a mass of high-voltage power lines contained in a 1'-thick slab of concrete. Water Authority Executive Director Earl Jann said it should not have happened because the line was installed in the 1970s and should have lasted 100 years.

"We think there was settling on the pipe, so the result is we don't think it was installed properly in the first place," Jann said. "We think there was settling eventually which caused the joint to split open a very small amount, and when that water is being pushed through there at 150 pounds of pressure, gradually that just eats that hole bigger and bigger."

Jann said when the leak was discovered, it was probably leaking around 1 million gallons of water a day. The pipe has been sent off to metallurgical consultants to see whether the metal is bad and met specifications. While all the bills for the repair are not in yet, Jann said they will total between $2.7-$2.8 million.

"To get down to that leak was an extremely difficult and very tedious situation, because the main thing that at the same time we're trying to fix it, we're trying to keep people in water," he said. "We don't want people running out of water and that's what caused the delays and everything else."

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