Residents say old sewer pipes can’t handle modifications

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Residents of Bird Avenue in Buffalo are worried about a $380 million project to keep sewage from flooding into the river during heavy rain storms.

When some neighbors along Bird Avenue, just west of Elmwood Avenue, see the work-in-progress, they get downright angry.

Karyn Brady said, “This sewer thing could just destroy our neighborhood in one big stink.”

Environmentalist Charley Tarr wants workers to stop.

“This is not a Buffalo crisis, it is not a New York State crisis. I speak of this as a North American crisis,” he said. “We have this project underway without any environmental review.”

The Buffalo Sewer Authority says workers are installing special gate chambers under the road that are supposed to stop the sewage from flowing into the river whenever there’s a heavy rain.

Tarr is taking the Sewer Authority to court.

“We need to find the additional federal money to get this done correctly. Right now, we’re doing this on the cheap, and it’s going to be an absolute disaster,” he argued.

He has support from neighbors like Brady.

“The sewer treatment plant historically has not been able to handle all the sewage going into it, so we’ve been dumping it in the river So the EPA said, you can’t do that anymore. And we agree with that. We can’t do that.”

What Brady and Tarr don’t support is the plan to modify brick pipes from the late 1800s as part of the project.

“The solution they came up with is they’re going to put these vaults and these gates in various streets throughout the city and these gates are going to serve basically as a dam to dam-up sewage along the street,” Brady said. “Putting sewer in old brick sewer lines is a condition that’s just waiting for problems.”

There is a definite odor in the air on Bird Avenue, but Tarr says the project is more than just a smelly nuisance. He claims the Sewer Authority failed to follow guidelines and that part of the projects were never reviewed under the State Environmental Quality Review Act.

Tarr said, “I believe all of this construction, Bird, Lang and all of the future intentions, should be stopped until we can figure out how we can do it correctly, and how we can get it paid for.”

No one from the Sewer Authority was willing to do speak to News 4. Lawyers for the authority have filed a motion to get Tarr’s lawsuit dismissed.

The agency says it “prepared an Environmental Assessment form in 2012 based upon the 2012 Long Term Control Plan.” And that it mentioned the “Bird Avenue and Lang Avenue Projects.”

The Sewer Authority says, “the project would not result in any significant adverse impacts.”

If the Sewer Authority moves forward with the rest of its 20-year plan, this issue won’t just affect Bird and Lang Avenues, it will also affect Hertel Avenue and areas of South Buffalo.

A judge may rule Thursday whether to dismiss Tarr’s lawsuit.

So far, crews haven’t stopped work on the project.

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