Construction + century-old water lines may = sinkholes in Buffalo's Fruit Belt

Jun 5, 2019

If you drive around Buffalo's Fruit Belt, you dodge bad street repairs and sink holes. However, City Hall seems to be getting serious about what is happening.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

There are around 100 sink holes in the community and there may be more. Most are just deep holes in the street, sidewalks or lawns. There are also smaller holes which seem to disappear into the darkness, suggesting the street might collapse.

Residents blame the massive construction of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus for fracturing century-old water lines.The community is part of Common Council President Darius Pridgen's Ellicott District. Speaking to the Council's Community Development Committee Tuesday, Pridgen said the city is looking for expert advice.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

"The sinkholes, the Council has put into the budget, after our meeting, for the city to engage with a consultant to be able to look at each and every sinkhole to find out the problem, because every sinkhole as we discussed is not because of the same thing," Pridgen said.

The city is also hiring a worker to get bad utility repairs in the pavement fixed so Fruit Belt residents are not dodging sinkholes and those bad street repairs. The council president said there will be a city worker checking to see if part of the problem is bad untility street repairs.

Lydia Jones said the sinkholes and leaks are damaging the Fruit Belt.

"I understand that the pipes are old and they're probably 100 years old, but these were old pipes that were just sitting there," Jones said. "But since the construction, we got hammered. You had bombing for them to put up five major new buildings. Since then, we've had like a earthquake effect in the Fruit Belt and now you got all these broken, damaged water pipes."

Common Councilmembers discuss sinkholes and what to do about them.
Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

Alethea Davis said it affects water in her house.

"The toilet water has degraded, when you flush your toilet, and downstairs the kitchen, the water is very cloudy," Davis said. "When I wash my dishes with the water, my dish towels turn gray-green. I have to boil my water to even wash the dishes and my laundry is not the brightest."

The sink holes aren't hard to find since many are marked by groups of those orange warning cones. The city's Water Division is slated to attend the Council Community Development Committee meeting in two weeks to discuss the matter.

Central to this debate is: Who pays to fix the problem, once it's determined? Residents are paying for expensive plumbing when the city says the leaks are on the lines into the house and not on the city water pipes.