Niagara County lawmakers demanding NFWB resignations after discharge incident

LOCKPORT, N.Y. (WIVB) — Several Niagara County lawmakers called on the resignations of Niagara Falls Water Board members, as well as the agency’s top management.

This came after a black discharge was spotted in the Niagara River over the weekend.

MORE | Details on what caused that can be found here.

The Republican legislators were led by Legislature Majority Leader Randy Bradt at the Niagara County Courthouse in Lockport Thursday.

“The actions of the Water Board go beyond the ‘PR black eye’ described in a Buffalo News article, and have become a full-blown crisis,” Bradt said. “For the good of our region, the Water Board’s leadership must accept responsibility for their failure here.”

Bradt says officials are waiting for the results of a DEC investigation before they push for the resignations.

The legislators are also asking that in addition to a DEC investigation, the Niagara County DA, the New York Attorney General’s Office, and the EPA also look into the discharge. 

The Niagara County Legislature has a draft of their resolution calling for the resignations.

An emergency meeting will be held next week to discuss the next steps in the process.

Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster released a statement following the legislators’ meeting at the courthouse.

“Now is not the time to play politics,” he said. “Saturday’s incident is a serious matter and one that is actively being investigated by Niagara Falls Police and the Department of Environmental Conservation. Rather than politicize the issue, I would encourage my colleagues in government to allow the investigation to run its full course before assigning blame.”

Niagara Falls Water Board Chairman Dan O’Callaghan made a public statement Thursday, and answered a limited amount of questions regarding the discharge. 

He indicated the discharge occurred as a result of an error during the water treatment process, a procedure that was necessary, and had been done since the 1970s.

On Saturday however, O’Callaghan said as a result of either “human error” or a “mechanical malfunction” with a valve at the treatment plant, the discharged was released into the water. 

The Water Board Chairman also apologized for not addressing the public sooner.

“There was an extreme failure by the leadership of the Water Board and the upper management there. Their claims that this release was within normal limits and procedures, permit limits, doesn’t sit well with me. I don’t buy that. And if that’s normal, it needs to change,” said Legislator Rebecca Wydysh of Lewiston. 

The Niagara County Legislatur doesn’t have authority to remove Water Board Commissioners, but indicated their resolutions are meant to send a message that this mistake is not acceptable.

When asked to explain the error further, or to discuss the DEC investigation further, O’Callaghan declined to elaborate. 

“We’re under investigation and right now everything is closed,” he said. 

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