Regional Sewer Mergers Shape the Future of the Division of Sewerage Management
By Joseph L. Fiegl, P.E.
The Division of Sewerage Management has been one of the most successful models for regionalism in Erie County. Within the last seven years, the Division of Sewerage Management has merged the sanitary sewer systems of the following municipalities with adjacent Erie County Sewer Districts:
- Town of Boston (2001, 2005)
- Village of Blasdell (2003)
- Town of Brant / Village of Farnham (2003)
- Town of Lancaster (2003, 2007)
- Village of Hamburg (2005)
- Village of E. Aurora / Town of Aurora (2007/2008)
- Town of Hamburg (2007, 2008)
- Village of North Collins (2007)
- Village of Orchard Park (2007)
- Wanakah Sewer Commission (2008)
Most of the communities that have merged with the County have touted that the consolidation of services has provided future cost savings for their residents while easing their concerns over future regulations, lessening their potential liabilities, and helping in their succession planning for their workforce.
The mergers program has had a positive effect on the County's operations. In many cases, the Division has limited options to address capacity issues in our interceptors, pumping stations, and wastewater treatment plants because we often do not own/operate/maintain the collection systems tributary to our facilities. By merging these smaller sewer systems with the County, the Division has additional alternatives to address these problems. Also, by adding more customers, the Division can realize economies of scale savings for its operations, maintenance, and capital improvements. From 2003 - 2008, the cost of service per capita has decreased 5%, which is substantial considering inflation, large increases in fuel costs, additional debt, cost of living increases, and other economic factors cause the cost to provide service to rise. Mergers have allowed the Division of Sewerage Management to provide service in a more efficient and effective manner, resulting in long-term operation and maintenance cost reductions and an overall benefit to the ratepayer.
In 2008, it is anticipated that the Division will explore mergers with the Town of Clarence (Erie County Sewer District (ECSD) No. 5), the Village of Depew (ECSD No. 4), the Town of Orchard Park (ECSD No. 3), and the Mount Vernon and Woodlawn Commissioner Districts (ECSD No. 3). The Division has also commissioned four separate studies to investigate consolidation of the Cheektowaga and West Seneca sanitary sewer systems with ECSD No. 1, the Village of Lancaster sanitary sewer system with ECSD No. 4, a regional sewer service model for Amherst, Clarence, Williamsville, and ECSD No. 5 sanitary sewer systems, and the elimination of the Lackawanna Wastewater Treatment Plant in ECSD No. 6 through the diversion of flows to the Buffalo Sewer Authority.
The Division of Sewerage Management appears to be well positioned to lead the way toward a regional sewer system. The merger program allows the Division to align its principles with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency watershed based approach for sanitary sewer services. We believe that this is the most efficient and effective method to protect the County's valuable water resources.