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April 5, 2021 - 9:32am

Genesee leaving no stone unturned as it works to meet increasing demand for safe, affordable water

When it comes to Genesee County’s water supply, municipal officials are fixated on a goal of a regionalized system under the umbrella of the Monroe County Water Authority.

Projects continue to move forward to the east and west of Genesee County as part of what is known as Phase 2 – resulting in an additional two and a half million gallons per day. And much more work is planned for Phase 3, which is expected to increase the county’s daily water output by another six million gallons.

With a steady influx of economic development in the county and the prospect of large-scale manufacturing at the Western New York Science & Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park in the Town of Alabama in the near future, the demand for water is bound to amplify.

“We’re flipping over rocks everywhere we go to find more water,” said Highway Superintendent Tim Hens, who is responsible for carrying out the county’s strategy.

Hens said that developing a regional water supply will result in a “resilient, safe and affordable” commodity for years and years.

“That’s probably the best thing for everybody,” he said. “The cost of repairing stuff down the road would be borne by the entire MCWA service area, not just the Village of Le Roy, for example, trying to replace its own water plant.”

Great Lakes water: Safe and plentiful

He said water coming from the Great Lakes is safe and plentiful.

“The water is safer (because) you’re dealing with Great Lakes water as opposed to water that might be contaminated with a flood or runoff or anything else that might go wrong,” he said. “It’s safer and, honestly, it’s more redundant because we will have potentially water supply from four different water plants on the Great Lakes.”

Genesee County has been working over the past two decades to achieve its quest for eight and a half million gallons per day, Hens said, calling the effort “very complex with a lot of intermunicipal relations.”

He said the county’s system currently pumps about four and half million gallons a day through the City of Batavia’s water treatment plant. That water, in turn, is sold to the communities in the central part of the county.

The key player in all of this is the Monroe County Water Authority.

“We get about two and a half million gallons per day from the MCWA through the North Road booster station in Le Roy,” Hens said. “And then Monroe County buys a little bit of water from Erie County to feed Darien, Pembroke and Corfu on the west side.”

Pump station upgrades ongoing

Hens said several pump station upgrades are either in progress or on the schedule as the county works to meet the demand:

  • Mumford and Churchville, small portions of Phase 2 that are set to come online by April 15;
  • Morgan Road in Scottsville; Scottsville; Riga, and North Road, which were submitted to MCWA for consideration last week;
  • Golden Road booster station in the Town of Chili, which was submitted to MCWA on March 5.
  • Bissell Road in Bergen, which calls for the installation of 1,700 linear feet of water main to the MCWA connection, and would provide up to 35,000 gallons per day. Hens said this minor project should be done by June.

Additionally, Hens said that installation of water mains on North Road and Vallance Road in Le Roy and a water line on Chestnut Ridge Road in Chili (that will feed into the yet-to-be-constructed Golden Road booster station) is finished.

Hens said that the pump station upgrades and the Golden Road booster station will mark at end to Phase 2 work.

“All of those projects combined will increase our water supply,” he said. “Hopefully, by this time next year we will have everything done and we can have that water available for the summer of 2022.”

Hot days tax the water supply

While Hens said he looks forward to the warm summer months, he is concerned about “those 90-degree days that put a strain on the water supply.”

“Right now, we’re kind of tapped out on water supply,” he said. “On a hot summer day, like last year on the Fourth of July, we were kind of in drought conditions. We’re pretty much – there was no water left to tap. We were producing all the water that we could produce, and it was being used up on a daily basis.”

Genesee County is taking steps to secure water for its central (including the City of Batavia) and western zones as well, Hens said.

“The city water plant draws water from two primary locations – the Tonawanda Creek and the wells on Cedar Street (in front of the county highway department near O-At-Ka Milk Products),” Hens advised.

He said Well A and Well B are active, but are susceptible to an extended drought. For that reason, the county is looking at adding a third well, Well C.

“Given the fact that we are at – kind of peak supply, peak demand right now until Phase 2 is completed – we need to make sure the Batavia water plant has enough water coming out of it to meet the demand, especially in the summertime,” Hens said. “Well C would be there not necessarily to produce more water but as a backup in case one of the other wells has an issue. That way, we can be assured that the city plant can produce as much water as needed.”

Well C is vital to the overall plan

Hens said the county has completed an environmental review and may be ready to award a bid to Frey Drilling to get this project moving.

“It will probably be late summer or the fall before its online. It’s going to be a critical piece for the next few years to have that,” he said.

On the west side, Hens said the county gets about a million gallons a day from Erie County to serve residents in Darien, Pembroke, Corfu (and a small area in the Town of Alabama).

“We’re looking at every single drop of water that we can get until we can do Phase 3 and eventually Phase 4,” he said.

He said he looked into a project with Erie County that officials thought would create an additional two and a half million gallons per day, but it fell through.

“Last fall, we did some hydraulic testing with Erie and Monroe counties, combined, and artificially created a demand by pumping into Genesee County to see the effect on Erie County. When we were pumping in at a higher rate, we caused pressure issues in Erie County as far west as Cheektowaga along Walden Avenue,” Hens said. “Because of that, it would actually cost more money because of the need to do system upgrades, and we kind of shelved the idea."

Looking ahead, the county is embarking on the environmental, design and master planning work for Phase 3.

Phase 3 completion three years away

“In a perfect world, we would start Phase 3 construction by 2023, but it’s hard to say. I’m hoping, fingers crossed, that Phase 3 can be delivered, complete and operational by 2024 -- 2025 at the latest,” he said.

Hens said a major component of Phase 3 would be to run pipelines back into Monroe County, all the way to the Shoremont Treatment Plant in Greece.

“That’s quite a bit of pipeline, with a lot of it through urban areas, and will be a very expensive project,” he said.

Upon the completion of Phase 3, Hens said that the City of Batavia water plant would be taken offline.

Furthermore, county officials are discussing a proposal to establish a Niagara County-MCWA relationship similar to the current Erie County-MCWA pact, Hens said.

“This could benefit us as we await Phase 3 and provide water to STAMP’s large water needs in the future and benefit MCWA in the long-term as they might be the source beyond what Niagara County could provide to STAMP at full build-out,” Hens explained. “Monroe County, if it agrees, would operate the systems. We’re not sure if it’s feasible; it’s just an option because we’re definitely going to need the water.”

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