Dorothy Whooten lives without running water. Why?
Unfortunately for several homeowners on Royal Avenue in Niagara Falls, this is not an April Fools' Day joke.
At least seven homes on Royal have been without running water since Feb. 13, and so far the city has done nothing to address the plight of the homeowners who are trying to make do with gallon jugs of water from a nearby fire station.
"It is very difficult," says 62-year-old Dorothy Whooten who lives at 3421 Royal Ave. "I can't cook much, can't wash food, and we have to use the jugs of water to flush the toilet. The city gave us five jugs to get water, but that's all. They say it is our problem, and we have to hire somebody to look at the pipes. The contractor says just to look will cost $3,000."
Whooten contacted the Niagara Falls Reporter on Monday (March 30) looking for help for her and her neighbors, and we called Councilmember Andrew Touma who called her Monday night and said he would be looking into the matter.
Mayor Paul Dyster, who Ms. Whooten said has not responded to phone calls from frustrated residents, could not be reached to comment on the terrible plight of the Royal Avenue homeowners who are living in a Third World environment in the City of Niagara Falls.
Paul Drof, executive director of the Niagara Falls Water Board, said the wickedly cold winter has been very difficult on pipes in the Cataract City and that crews have been working virtually around the clock to keep the water moving as the frost goes four and five feet deep. Unfortunately, in the case of Royal Avenue, there's not much the Water Board can do because the stoppage is between the street and the meters, and therefore it is viewed by the board as a homeowner problem. The city's view is not known, but leaders have ignored the calls for help.
"They are very nice people, and many of them have been there for a long time, and they've never had this kind of problem before," Drof told the Reporter, adding that it is very frustrating not to be able to help the residents. Ms. Whooten, who is retired, has lived on Royal for 30 years and as Drof said, she has never faced this kind of a crisis in all those years.
Despite her numerous calls for help from the city, the response from Councilmember Touma, after we contacted him, has really been about it. In the meantime, she has gallantly struggled to keep going with no running water since the mid-February stoppage.
There have been plenty of other water problems throughout the city, most notably on 72nd Street, and in that case it may have been caused during road reconstruction when the Water Board held back on replacing the water lines because of cost, and because the old pipes had been disturbed, they were vulnerable to freezing, and they did.
In the case of Royal Avenue, the Water Board is not to blame for the problem, but it is worth noting the street was dug up last summer by the city although the water continued to run uninterrupted until this past February.
City Hall and the mayor may have a lot on their plate, but to have a half-dozen or so homeowners living without running water for six weeks seems to be a problem that should be addressed by someone collecting a city paycheck.
In this case, it is quite unbelievable that a 30-year resident like Dorothy Whooten can't reach a city official to find out what the circumstances are with her water problem and to see if the city can find a better answer for her and the others except to pay a contractor thousands of dollars just to look at the pipes.
We'll stay on this story, because it could be any street in the city that could be facing a similar problem and it would be nice to know that the city would look into it, or at least respond to calls for help, when the circumstances are so dire. Maybe the mayor needs to appoint a task force to deal with these kinds of issues so people know where to turn in times of crisis, especially if nobody is manning the phones at City Hall.