OLCOTT, N.Y. (WIVB) —Beach erosion and flooded yards are the most visible problems near the water front in Olcott, but if you look up and down the side streets, man holes are covered with sand bags. That’s because county officials are worried that a little more water may cause a big problem.
Jonathan Shultz, Director of Emergency Services for Niagara County told News 4, “We’re taking some emergency measures here in the lowest sections here in Olcott. We’re actually having all of our man holes covered with plastic and sandbags so that we don’t have any major infiltration into the system or we don’t have any sewage leaking out into the roadways.”
They’re taking precautionary measures and also working tirelessly to manage sewage levels. Shultz said, “The town obviously, we’ve got things in place now. We’ve got pumps in the area, we have pump operations now to help maintain the levels within the sewage system”
A 24 hour pump takes sewage from the ground, pumps it all the way up the hill, in hopes of avoiding any flooding in the lowest lying areas of Olcott. One resident of Olcott, John Luch, told News 4, “We’re on standby over there. I’ve got a suitcase full of evacuation clothes in the trunk of my car. I’m ready to scoot if I have to.”
He says he’s confident in the pumps abilities, but knows what would happen if they failed. Luch said, “The sewer levels would go up to a certain point and then everybody would have to evacuate.”
That would mean almost 1,200 people would have to leave their homes. About half of them live there all year.
Chief Operator at the Newfane Waste Water Treatment Plant, Marty Enseleit, is doing everything he can to keep those people home. He shared, “We have eliminated a lot of the infiltration, but there is a lot more to go. That’s because the system is getting older. It’s almost 40 years old now.”
Right now, that near half a century old system is pumping double the amount of sewage it does on an average day to catch up. It puts it at risk of breaking, if the ground does not dry up soon. County officials say for now, they’re taking it one step at a time and hoping for the best for the weather. Enseleit said the only time heavy rains have closed the sewage systems down was back in 2000. He says it took over 3 inches of water in just over a few hours to max out the design flow.