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Heavy rains putting pressure on combined sewer systems

Without changes to a combined sewer system like Buffalo's, the water from snow melt or a heavy rain will overload the system and continue to send a mix of sewage and stormwater overflow into area waterways. The Buffalo Sewer Authority is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to correct the situation.

For more than five years, the authority has been working at meeting a consent order with EPA to stop popping overflow valves. Improvements to this point have cost $176 million. At least another $250 million will be needed to complete the overhaul.

"We want to make sure that we're not affecting the water quality of all of the rivers that we have around us," said Sewer Authority Olulowole McFoy.

"So, anywhere from the Buffalo River to the Niagara River to our Black Rock Canal to Scajaquada Creek to Cornelius Creek to the Erie Basin Marina, we want to make sure that we're not responsible for pollution."

The authority is fighting to keep stormwater from overloading the system, with every tool from disconnecting downspouts from the sewer system to installing rain barrels to the downspouts so you can water your lawn with the water to building more narrow roads so that rain doesn't bounce off the blacktop but flows into roadside grass.