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Above average number of water main breaks in Erie County.

Erie County Water Authority repairs 26 breaks over a couple days time.
Posted: 5:52 PM, Mar 04, 2019
Updated: 2019-03-04 22:55:18Z

CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WKBW) — Another round of frigid winter weather caused an above average number of water main breaks in Erie County that left hundreds of customers without water.

The Erie County Water Authority said its crews responded to 26 water main breaks over a multi-day period starting Saturday March 2nd.

Those breaks included a 24" transmission main on Marcus Drive, Cheektowaga.

Freeze-thaw cycles are putting stress on Erie County's very old water infrastructure which has many pipes that are around 100-years old.

As the ground heaves during the change in temperatures, it pushes on old cast iron pipes which have already outlived their expected use.

However, replacing the old water pipes could cost over a billion dollars, explained Erie County Water Authority Deputy Director Robert Lichtenthal, Jr., because there are an estimated 500 miles of old cast iron pipes still in use.

The authority is planning to spend over half of its capital budget this year, $24 million, to replace what it can - which equates to about ten (10) miles of transmission and distribution water pipes.

Making the situation more financially challenging, people are using less water than they did in decades past, which means less revenue through water sales.

It could take decades to finally replace all the problem cast iron pipes with newer PVC and ductile iron pipes that have a lifespan of around 100 years or longer.

The City of Buffalo told 7 Eyewitness News that it had no water main breaks during the past weekend. But the city said it did have 10 more watermain breaks during January/February 2019 than it did during the same period in 2018.

Reporter Ed Reilly has more in the attached report.