DERBY, N.Y. -- After a significant water main break at the Sturgeon Point Treatment Plant in Derby Sunday night, the Erie County Water Authority is telling residents in more than a dozen Southtown communities to conserve water. They are also warning that residents of these communities could experience lower-than-normal water pressure while the break is being fixed.
On Monday, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said while he believes the ECWA's communication with customers has improved from how they handled a major break in Amherst last summer, he also said he believes they should be taking more steps to prevent these large scale breaks in the first place.
He says it's all about priorities.
There's clearly a lot of old and crumbling infrastructure, and Poloncarz says that needs to be the focus.
"It seems like it's hard to find accountability there, right?" he said. "You don't oversee the Erie County Water Authority. How are we supposed to kind of have confidence in the leadership if they don't really report to anybody? Well, I'll tell you what think: I oversee the Erie County sewer districts. You don't hear issues like this with the sewer districts. We invest in our infrastructure, because you don't want to have massive sewer line breaks. It's as simple as that. It is a separate authority. It's not part of county government. It is bothersome. I don't have a vote. I don't have an appointee to the board. And so what I think what is important is they be held accountable by individuals from the public as well as the media."
The authority exists thanks to state law.
And so it begs the question: should the state restructure the authority to force more accountability?
It just so happens the state assembly speaker was in town Monday.
We asked Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie about oversight of independent authorities.
"I think that we could always be more efficient in ways of operation," he said. "Since the state grants the authorities the right to be authorities, I think we should always keep an eye on what they're doing to make sure that the mission of why the authority was actually created is adhered to."
There are actually two major supply pipes coming from the plant, and the one that ruptured, despite being 42-inches in diameter, is actually the smaller of the two, which is why they were still able to supply water to customers --- as long as the customers conserve where they can.
The communities being asked to conserve water until 6 p.m. Tuesday are Town and Village of Hamburg; the Town and Village of Orchard Park; the Town of Aurora; the Village of East Aurora; the Towns of Colden, Boston, Eden, Evans, Brant and Hanover; the Villages of Angola, Farnham, Silver Creek, and the Seneca Indian reservation.