Seneca Nation President Todd Gates and North Collins Town Supervisor John Tobia on Monday signed an agreement that will provide safe drinking water for the hamlet of Lawtons in North Collins. It is one of three areas in Western New York cited for having tap water that was a health threat in a recent report from the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The 37 homes in Lawtons - located just east of the Cattaraugus Reservation - get their water from a well that is contaminated with nitrates from agricultural runoff and have had problems with drinking water quality for several years. Tobia said the options to install a filtration system or to connect to the town's water supply were too expensive.
"I went to President Gates. I spoke to the Council, a few members of the Council, and asked them if we could tap into their water line, which is actually Erie County water," said Tobia. "They voted on it recently, because they're great neighbors, they've always been great neighbors to us, and they said, 'Absolutely, we'll help out your town,' and it was the greatest news I've heard since I've been a town supervisor for two years."
"Through discussions between the Lawtons water district and the Seneca Nation, a measure has been approved by both the Seneca Nation Council and the North Collins Town Board to allow the Nation to support those residents and ensure that they have a safe, reliable supply of healthy drinking water," said Nation Spokesman Phil Pantano.
Because of the hamlet's proximity, tapping into the Seneca's water line will cost about $500,000, compared to up to $2 million to connect to the town's water line.
WBFO's Nick Lippa contributed to this report.