Due to incompetence of city officials, frozen water pipes wreck havoc for unlucky Niagara Falls residents

Even though access to water is as basic a need as food and shelter, its importance in everyday life can be easily overlooked – until it’s gone.

For residents of Niagara Falls, this lesson has been learned all too much due to the extreme cold and questionable management by Niagara Falls city officials and the Niagara Falls Water Board.

As of Thursday, 133 homes in Niagara Falls did not have water coming to their homes because of frozen water lines, which connect a home’s pipes to the water mains beneath city streets.

Some of these residents had even more reason to be frustrated – this problem occurred last year as well.

If this issue was unprecedented, more sympathy would be warranted for the Water Board, the agency which deals with water and sewer utilities in Niagara Falls and is separate from the city’s operations.

This distinction between the Water Board and the city seems to be creating even more headaches for city officials and Water Board employees, as their ineffective communication has exacerbated the situation and contributed to the Board’s failure in addressing the problem.

This is easily apparent, as the city commissioned a report on potential causes of frozen water lines last spring, but seemingly never shared the information with the Water Board – even though the Board would be responsible for fixing the water lines.

The report detailed a major deficiency in the cover over water mains on 72nd and 77th streets – the areas with the most houses lacking water – and found that some water mains were also too shallow, another contributing factor in the frozen pipes.

This sounds like crucial information to share with the Board – ideally immediately after the report was filed, rather than in the dead of winter.

Instead, the recommendation to replace water mains and place them deeper underground was dismissed, and Water Board officials seemed leery to even discuss the report.

Some Board officials said they had never heard the information until Thursday, although according to The Buffalo News some of the report had been discussed in a meeting with the city earlier in the month.

Now, because the information was either ignored or never received, property owners in Niagara Falls not only have to deal with their lack of water but also the burden of thawing their frozen pipes. State law deems property owners responsible for the water pipes that run between their residences and the street.

Paying a plumber to solve the issue usually costs several hundred dollars, and the responsibility lies with the property owner rather than the city – even though residents clearly aren’t to blame.

The Water Board is considerate enough to offer a “drip program,” which reimburses residents for the cost of continuously running a thin stream of water through their faucets to help prevent pipes from freezing.

However, it would be far more considerate of Board employees – and city officials – to simply do their jobs and avoid creating inconveniences for residents to suffer through – and problems for property owners to solve.

email: editorial@ubspectrum.com