It is a problem that has existed for decades. Whenever there is a heavy rain, the Town of Cheektowaga is forced to overflow untreated sewage into Scajaquada Creek. It then flows downstream and overflows into Buffalo's Hoyt Lake and then into the Niagara River and Lake Ontario.
The problem is caused by Cheektowaga's very old sewer system which is filled with cracks that let in rain and ground water. It combines with sewage discharge from homes and businesses which ends up exceeding the amount that Cheektowaga is allowed to have treated by the Buffalo Sewer Authority (Cheektowaga does not have its own sewer treatment facility). The excess untreated combined overflow has to be dumped into the creek.
So far, the town has received $24 million in NYS money to line sewers and inspect connections. That has allowed the town to reline approximately 30% of its sewer pipes with plastic liners.
Several lawmakers held a press conference Thursday morning (July 26, 2018) stating the repairs have helped reduce Cheektowaga's sewage overflows by 75 million gallons, but they say, much more work needs to be done.
NYS Senator Tim Kennedy(D-Buffalo), NYS Assemblymember Monica Wallace (D-Cheektowaga) and NYS Assemblymember Sean Ryan (D-Buffalo) are now pushing NYS to allocate an additional $5 million dollars so Cheektowaga can continue the work.
The extra grant money will help the town reline up to 60% of its old sewer pipes.
However, Cheektowaga Supervisor Diane Benczkowski said it could take up to $60 million and 20 years to completely fix the town's hundreds of miles of sewers.
Cheektowaga is under a Consent Order from the NYS DEC to improve and modernize its sewer system.
Part of the problem also includes people who have illegal storm water hookups into the sanitary system. The town has started a process of inspecting homes and plans to expand that to include businesses and commercial properties in the near future.
The most common problems are people having downspouts and sump pumps emptying into a sanitary sewer drain.
Supervisor Benczkowski is asking residents to call for a voluntary inspection to see if their drains are in compliance. In most cases, the supervisor said, there is a easy and affordable fix.
If the voluntary measures don't work, the town could be forced to take more aggressive steps to force compliance in the future.
7 Eyewitness News Reporter Ed Reilly has more in his report.