Niagara Falls NY - The long withheld report, commissioned in Feb 2014 by Mayor Paul A. Dyster - to determine why water lines on 72nd St. froze - was obtained through a FOIL request by the Buffalo News.
The report, authored by Clark Patterson Lee, which Dyster went to great lengths to hide from the public, verifies that the city and the Niagara Falls Water Board contributed to the problem 72nd St. residents now face with recurring freezing water lines.
Dyster's hiding the report guaranteed the problem was not fixed last year, subjecting residents to a second year of freezing.
A review of this whole matter will show that Dyster patently deceived residents while hiding the contents of the Clark Patterson Lee (CPL) report.
78-year old Water Main not replaced by design
In 2010, the Dyster administration performed a $2.6 million road reconstruction on 72nd Street. Dyster's engineering department approved designs which called for a new water main for the southern half of the street while keeping the old water main for the northern half - from Stephenson to Niagara Falls Blvd.
The old main on 72nd St. was installed in 1931, and was shallow - between two and three feet deep in places. But it was packed in clay as insulation - as were many mains installed during the depression.
Accadia Site Contracting did the road construction and Paul Marinaccio, president of Accadia, told the Dyster administration that the old water line wasn't deep enough.
"I sent the city a letter saying that they should replace the water line and they said the Water Board would not approve the money," Marinaccio said.
The Dyster administration, ignoring the contractor's advice, ordered the contractor to complete the job as designed.
During road construction, the compacted clay was displaced and filled with a cover of gravel and crushed stone.
"The dirt had been around the water lines for 70 years," Marinaccio said. "Now we come digging along and take the pressure of the dirt away and the water line starts leaking because they're deteriorated," Marinaccio said. The contractor back filled with crushed stone - as the design plans required.
Making matters worse was that the design lowered the road elevation in places and driveways and sidewalks were also lowered providing less distance between the water pipes and the road.
The 78 year old water lines - without clay insulation - were shallower than before - and with a cover of porous stone - allowing frost and cold to penetrate quicker.
The problem erupts
For several winters there was not a problem. Then a brutal cold spell hit in Feb 2014.
A dozen homes were suddenly without water.
On Feb 3, 2014, Mayor Dyster told Time Warner Cable News, it was the cold weather.
"Having water lines freeze during a cold winter is not at all an unusual situation," he said.
He told the Buffalo News he would hire an outside consulting engineer to study why 72nd St had so many frozen water lines.
By Feb 11, 2014, the Reporter, after conducting an investigation, concluded that the cause of freezing pipes was that main water line was too shallow.
Anthony Mallone, a licensed engineer, and project manager for Accadia, told the Reporter the solution is "to redo the water line below the freeze line and do all the inter-connects, running the new services to the main deck. It will cost more than $500,000 to do it now, as opposed to $300,000 when we were rebuilding the road," Mallone said.
Our Feb 11 2014 story - which we thought was a dead on report - got little traction at the time.
Dyster told residents to be patient and wait for his report. The Water Board told residents that, by law, the property owner pays for fixing broken lateral lines. Residents fixed their many broken pipes, spending more than $1000 each.
The Report Comes in,
But Dyster Hides it
Winter passed. Spring arrived and with it, on April 9, 2014, the Buffalo engineering firm of Clark Patterson Lee handed their report on the frozen water line problem to Dyster.
A four page report, it stated there was a "major deficiency" which was that the main water line had "inadequate cover" (i.e. too shallow, combined with covering with gravel) which led to a "partial systemic failure."
The report also specifically said water mains were shallower than they should be, which meant lateral lines were more susceptible to freezing.
The report also noted that the city recommended that the Water Board replace the water main and put it deeper underground, but the Water Board decided against it.
Instead of releasing the report in April, and going to work to solve the problem, Dyster never shared it with residents.
Five months after Dyster received the report, Water Board Chairman Ted Janese, unaware that the report was completed, told 72nd St. residents who attended a Sept. Water Board meeting, "the city of Niagara Falls has commissioned an engineering report for which we hope to learn the findings of in the near future."
Three months passed.
On Dec 10, WGRZ reported, "residents are still waiting for the release of an engineering consultant's study ordered by the city."
On Jan, 6, 2015, WKBW discovered Dyster had the report and asked for it, reporting, "Eyewitness News asked to see that report a full nine months (after he received it) but the mayor declined to share it with us, saying he wanted to give the water board a heads up first."
On Jan. 7, Dyster, while refusing to release the report, told WGRZ's Ron Plants from 2 on Your Side that the report "found no specific cause other than extreme frigid weather for last winter's frozen water pipe problems."
Plants asked Dyster - actually pegging the true problem addressed in the report - "Let's face it. There's a lot of theories out there saying the water pipes weren't buried deep enough or they didn't use the proper material. What do you think about that?"
Dyster replied, "What the consultant engineers came back and told us was that there was no single factor that you can say was responsible for the frozen water services aside from the fact that we had an extended period of record cold."
With this, Dyster tried to put the matter to bed.
It was the cold and nothing more.
Had Feb. 2015 not been so cold, Dyster might have got away with it.
72nd St has frozen lines again
The problem reappeared.
It was not the cold alone.
According to the Water Board, while no other street in the city had more than three homes with frozen water lines during the bitter cold spell in late Feb., there were18 homes on the stretch of 72nd St. with frozen lines.
Dyster's reaction was to not release the report, but admit there might be a problem other than the cold.
On Feb 22, Dyster told WGRZ he would hire a consultant to examine the bedrock and soil composition beneath the street.
On the same day, while not showing the report, Dyster told Time Warner Cable News' Kevin Jolly that the report "ruled out the placement of the waterline (as the problem)."
Two days later, pressed by WIVB's Rich Newberg, Dyster said the consultant's report could not "pinpoint" the problem but, "We're willing to lead the charge in terms of fixing whatever this problem is, once we're able to determine what's happening."
It was not until the next day, on Feb 26, when the public learned what the report really said.
The Secret Report is Uncovered
Dyster has to spin madly
The Buffalo News obtained the report not from Dyster but through a FOIL request.
The News' Aaron Besecker reported, now for the first time, that the report claimed "inadequate cover", as a "major deficiency" and that water mains were shallower than they should have been.
And that the report did not say the frozen pipes were caused by cold alone.
The News wrote, "It appears the city had clues about potential causes (of the freeze problem) as early as last spring".
Surprisingly, as the News reported, "Water Board officials said they first saw a copy (of the report) Thursday (Feb 26) when provided one by a News reporter."
Funny, a 10 month old report, which vitally impacts 72nd St residents, and if interpreted could be construed as laying the foundation for blame on the city and the Water Board, yet Dyster never gave it to the Water Board.
Water Board Executive Director Paul Drof, who got his first look at the report the day the News gave it to him, admitted that the city typically recommends the Water Board replace water lines during road projects, but the Water Board doesn't always have the funding.
The News' reporter, Besecker, turned to Dyster for explanations.
Dyster claimed the report was essentially worthless. He told the News, "the city spent the money for the engineering review last year because it was looking for something specific to act on, but no specific project emerged at the time."
Then Dyster, not having his best spin doctor day, admitted, rather amazingly, "We didn't know it was going to freeze up again this year."
Dyster kept spinning, while saying, "we're reaching the conclusion that there's some type of systemic issue on 72nd Street," he said the words in the report don't mean what they say.
The News reported, "Dyster said he believes last spring's analysis includes many statements that can be misinterpreted if taken out of context. The report's note about 'inadequate cover' does not mean there was a mistake made in the amount of fill or material put on top of the water mains, Dyster said. All state Department of Transportation specifications were followed, he said."
Dyster next said he would hire consultants for an "extensive investigation".
"I think we're at the point where we feel we've got to put a significant amount of money into finding out what might be done," Dyster said.
More Money for Consultants
Dyster, who has failed to hire a city engineer - for years - as required by city charter - is planning on ignoring the original report which clearly points out what is wrong, and is planning on spending "a significant amount of money" - with Clark Patterson Lee - whose assigned engineer for city business is Dyster friend and campaign contributor, David Jaros, who bills the city at $92 per hour - to find out what is wrong.
Mistakes combined with non transparency created this mess
Here is what is wrong - Dyster and his non transparency.
Failing to understand the original design was faulty, possibly because there is not a city engineer, failing to correct the problem in the field when it was pointed out, failing to reveal the report for 10 months - which pointed to the problem, then doing nothing last summer - that is the problem.
That a new water main could have been installed for $300,000. Now it will cost more than $500,000.
It also cost residents on 72nd St., who paid for broken water lines in 2014 and were certainly entitled to know what the Clark Patterson report said.
An analysis of that report might have pointed to a solution that could have avoided the 2015 freeze and additional costs and inconvenience borne by residents.
Residents don't need a repeat of last year - where Dyster hires consultants who give him reports which he hides.
At the end of the day, the Reporter predicts that the city and the Water Board will have to replace the old main water line as they should have done when they rebuilt the street.
But it will not be done before Dyster can spend as much money as possible on consulting with his Buffalo friends.
But spending is no problem when Dyster likes the plan.
In the midst of the long months where Dyster sought to hide the report, WIVB spoke with local resident Vince Mameli who said, "With all the money that they use from casino (funds) they should have replaced the water lines when they rebuilt the street but they took the cheap way out."
In the year since the problem occurred on 72nd St, Dyster spent casino money on a lot of things he personally fought for -- $500,000 for Isaiah 61 for a reuse store, $150,000 for Community Mission to pay off a tax lien, $350,000 for the still unopened Underground Railroad Exhibit, $350,000 to Wendel Engineering to rebid the train station after Wendel failed to include soil boring results in their first bid, $460,000 for a repave of City Hall's parking lot, $1.5 million to USA Niagara for parties and events on Old Falls St. and to manage the conference center and much more.
Wouldn't you think fixing the residents' problem on 72nd St would have been a higher priority?