Leak fixed, water flowing freely again in the Southtowns

DERBY, N.Y. (WIVB) – A leaking water line at the Erie County Water Authority’s Sturgeon Point treatment plant has been repaired, allowing the water authority to lift the voluntary restrictions it had imposed on users in the Southtowns since August 6.

Water authority officials had extended the restrictions until August 17, until a temporary fix was employed over the weekend. The repair also avoided a possible tightening of the water supply to the Erie County Fair.

But officials pointed, getting to the source of the leak and fixing it was not an easy task.

Officials still don’t know what caused the 42” water line to break, but the possibility of the leak getting worse prompted work crews to step up their timetable, and repair the leaking pipe without completely shutting it down, which would have affected the fair.

Water Authority crew chief Tim Selph led the repair, crawling on hands and knees, 40 feet through a dark, leaking pipe, 20 underground, to find the leak and seal it, “You’ve got to get right under the water that is pouring on your head.”

Officials say the rupture in the line was about the size of a baseball, and the crew had to lie on their backs—in about 6” of water—to perform the repairs.

Erie County Water Authority officials had planned on fixing the broken pipe over the weekend. They called in Hydra Tech, Inc., the Cincinnati, Ohio company that makes the seal they would use to stop the leak.

But with uncertainty surrounding the cause of the leak–a leak they could not even see—ECWA Executive Engineer Russ Stoll said the Authority decided to make the move Friday.

“By entering the pipe to put the joint seal in, we could take a look at the condition of the leak itself and also do a temporary repair with the joint seal.”

If the seal did not work, the 42” water line would have had to be shut off, cutting into the water supplied to the Erie County Fair.

Selph said it was a job that had to be done, “You crawl in, you crawl over the 50 feet, and you’ve got the water coming in. There is a lot of pressure. You’ve just got to stay focused on the task at hand, and that is, just get the leak sealed and get out.”

While the seal is temporary, what seems to be the biggest mystery to Water Authority officials: How does a steel lined, concrete pipe that is supposed to last 100 years fail after only 20 years of use? While there is speculation of a design flaw, the ECWA is continuing its investigation.

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