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LOCKPORT - A break in one of Lockport's ancient cast-iron water mains is threatening to wash away the foundations of the new ice arena, Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano told the Common Council on Wednesday.
One day after the city declared in a court filing against its firefighters' union that it will run out of money in August unless fire services are cut back, the Council agreed to an emergency purchase of a new computerized leak detector to find and repair the broken pipe.
The city will pay $3,500 today for an emergency crew to bring in a new "correlator," as the leak detector is called, to pinpoint the location of the break seven or eight feet beneath the city-owned parking lot at Chestnut and Elm streets.
Dale Lawson Jr., city water distribution and maintenance supervisor, said the water is flowing downhill into the Lockport Ice Arena and Sports Center across Chestnut Street from the parking lot.
The city has a leak detector, which has failed to find the break. The city bought it used 10 or 12 years ago, and the unit is probably 20 to 25 years old, Lawson said. It only works with cast-iron pipes - sometimes.
Lawson said the new one will cost $30,000 but has much improved technology and works with all types of leaking pipes.
"It's already cost the rink $10,000 in stone washed away, foundation and footer problems," Ottaviano said. "We're already a week behind."
The $13 million twin-rink complex, which is privately owned although the leaders of the not-for-profit group are city officials, is being rushed to a mid-September completion in order to keep commitments already made to amateur hockey programs.
Lawson said city water crews have been boring holes in the parking lot, trying to find the leak and neglecting other jobs.
Although water didn't start rushing into the foundation until Monday, Lawson said there's no way of knowing when or why the leak started.
"If they don't show up on the surface or we don't hear them by listening to fire hydrants, we don't know about them," he said.
He said it's not unusual for the city's 19th century pipes to leak for long periods before a problem becomes evident.
Lawson said $2,000 of the $3,500 correlator payment can be applied toward the purchase of the new $30,000 unit, which was cut out of this year's city budget.
He told the Council it had the option of waiting until Friday night, when a salesman would be able to bring one in for free. "One day's going to save us $1,500," Council President Joseph C. Kibler said.
"It's not worth it. This has to be done," Alderman Patrick W. Schrader said. "This is an emergency."
"The ice rink is a big part of our future," Alderwoman Kathryn J. "Kitty" Fogle agreed.
The city is anticipating a sizable economic impact from a steady stream of visiting hockey teams and families to the arena.