The vast sanitary sewer network run by Erie County continues to spend a lot of money to make sure it takes in as little water as possible in water from cracked pipes, gutter downspouts, sump pumps or even leaking manhole covers. Extra water coming in can mean the pipe overflows and dumps contaminated water into area waterways.
One of the biggest efforts to stop that was in the Rush Creek Interceptor project, $15 million to clean up the waterway and close three overflows.
"We need to be part of the solution and we have been part of the solution, but it's important to note that we're not the only bacterial source that has been identified. There is a sanitary survey done by New York State Parks where they have gone through and looked at sources, and sanitary sewer outflow was one of five bacterial sources. There are four other sources," said Environment and Planning Deputy Commissioner Joseph Fiegl.
Those other sources are one reason why the beach is closed so often at Woodlawn Beach State Park.
Fiegl said the county will spend $4 million this year to continue plastic lining sewer pipes, up to 15 miles this year. There are also inspectors who go out and check homes and buildings to make sure gutters, sump pumps and even those air vents in the lawn aren't putting water into sewer lines and threatening overflows.
The Department of Environment and Planning runs a sewer system serving around a third of the county's population. That is split, with half of the sewage treatment done by the Buffalo Sewer Authority and half done by the county's six treatment plants. Much of the system was taken over from local governments, some of it more than a century old.
Only in Lackawanna does the Department also run some storm sewers. That city has one of the oldest pipe networks in the county.