Cheektowaga pledges action on Scajaquada

There is progress to report on Scajaquada Creek.

The creek has been badly polluted by the dumping of more than 500 million gallons a year of sewage and untreated stormwater runoff by Buffalo and Cheektowaga. As a result, the Scajaquada is plagued by high bacteria levels , botulism that kills birds and sludge up to five feet deep in parts of the creek bed.

Town of Cheektowaga officials, who to this point have dodged questions since our initial report two weeks ago, acknowledged to Dan Telvock of Investigative Post that the dumping is a serious problem that they need to address. They also criticized the state Department of Environmental Conservation for not lending assistance.

“There is definitely a moral obligation for the town and we are going to move ahead and we are going to get this fixed whether it’s with them or without them,” said Councilman Tim Meyer. “But they are the arm that regulates this and they should be reaching out and assisting us in anyway they can.”

Supervisor Mary Holtz estimated it will cost up to $30 million for Cheektowaga to upgrade its sewer stem to stem overflows into the creek.

“The unfortunate thing is we have no funding from the state, no funding from the federal government, it falls on our taxpayers to pay for it,” she said.

Last week, state Senator Tim Kennedy, whose district includes Cheektowaga, said “it’s time for the Department of Environmental Conservation to step up and to get much more aggressive.”

Kennedy made his remarks after witnessing the creek’s dire condition, along with fellow Sen. Mark Grisanti. He followed up with a letter to the DEC urging the department to “work with Cheektowaga to resolve this confusion … and work with the town to identify financing opportunities and secured needed funds.”

DEC officials, who have a history of not enforcing environmental regulations, have steadfastly rejected interview requests from Investigative Post.

Meanwhile, Buffalo officials, who earlier this year committed to a long-term plan to reduce sewer overflows into the Scajaquada, told Investigative Post they will do a better job of cleaning up a portion of the creek near Hoyt Lake that is frequently blighted with trash and sewage.

“We agree it should be cleaned up more often,” Public Works Commissioner Steve Stepniak said.

In fact, the offending section of the creek was cleaned of debris late Tuesday or early Wednesday, after going unattended for weeks, if not longer. Debris started to collect just hours after the cleanup, however, underscoring the creek’s deplorable condition.