DEC, Niagara Falls Water Board at odds again after another sewage dump

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) — The rain may have been spotty over some parts of Western New York on Wednesday, but it rained hard enough in Niagara Falls to send another cloud of black sludge into the Niagara River. And the state Department of Conservation said once again, the Niagara Falls Water Board is at fault.

The first time this summer the Niagara Falls Wastewater Treatment Plant dumped hundreds of thousands of gallons of sewage into the Niagara River, it was the result of human error.
Heavy rains caused overflows a two times since, drawing the ire of the DEC and the governor, which came with rare but costly fines.
It was the same Wednesday evening, when once again, blackness flowed from the outflow spot below the Rainbow Bridge.
“I would suggest that the board get its act together and speak with one voice about the needs that are there to both correct the human error and whatever mechanical and/or infrastructure needs are evident,” said Congressman Brian Higgins, D-New York.
The water board maintains it’s plant is sorely outdated, and it can only operate with what it has, meaning overflows like what happened Wednesday are unavoidable.
It needs money for major improvements, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. And the water board’s collective hand is stretched out to the state and federal governments.
“There are monies available today, and there will be money available next year, but the quality of the application from the Niagara Falls Water Board will determine success or failure,” Higgins said.
The DEC released another statement Thursday afternoon, pointing the finger back at the water board.
Any entity, public or private, that operates a plant is responsible for complying with the law,” the statement read. “Niagara Falls Water Board, which operates this plant, is responsible for seeking and identifying sources of funding for all needed infrastructure upgrades. This year, the State made an historic investment in water infrastructure through the $2.5 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act which can be a source for funding future upgrades.”
 The water board issued another statement Thursday as well, saying it’s taken steps — before and after the July 29 overflow caused by human error — to improve the plant. That includes increased staffing, training and maintenance procedures, as well as hiring outside help to assess and help operate certain parts of the aging plant.

“While aging infrastructure and system design limitations impact overall facility capacity during heavy volume periods, extensive efforts remain underway to identify additional short and long-term solutions to mitigate these existing facility constraints, which in effect cause wet weather discharge and overflow situations,” according to the statement.

Higgins said it didn’t take long to identify how much the water board has in recent years from state and federal government sources. According to a breakdown provided to News 4, the NFWB has received more than $40.5 million in loans and grants during the past five years.

“If there is inadequate infrastructure that is contributing to this problem, it needs to be fixed,” Higgins said. “And the federal government really has an obligation through grants and loans to assist the city and this water board in correcting this problem.”

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