Niagara Falls water board seeks help controlling dark overflows

Niagara Falls, N.Y. (WIVB) – Heavy rain Sunday night and Monday morning is being blamed for yet another overflow of raw sewage into the Niagara River adjacent to the Niagara Falls—the third time in a week.

The State Department of Environmental Conservation reports Monday’s overflow was actually the fifth discharge in three months, noting there was a discharge Sunday. The DEC is warning the Niagara Falls Water Board, it has to take action to control pollution flowing from the city’s wasterwater treatment plant into the river, but the board now says it needs help.

While all of Western New York got soaked overnight, Niagara Falls seemed to bear the brunt of it, recording more than two inches of rain. The heavy downpours led to sewer overflows or discharges at 26 other locations, according to the DEC, the most significant mishaps at North Tonawanda, Tonawanda, Grand Island, Cheektowaga into Scajaquada Creek, Buffalo, and Hamburg.

The Niagara Falls Water Board issued a statement, Monday, which said in part “The NFWB continues to call attention to the need for major state and federal investment in capital infrastructure improvements at outdated wastewater treatment facilities across the Great Lakes watershed.”

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, in Lewiston on Monday, said Congress and President Trump are working on infrastructure legislation, “The infrastructure of our water supply here in Niagara Falls, and in Western New York is old, and we need a major infrastructure bill, and hopefully that is one area where the president and Congress can work together.”

The water board contends the 40-year-old wastewater treatment plant is under capacity for the volume of storm water it takes in, and depends on a water filtering system that is outdated. Expensive improvements are needed, which the board said they cannot afford.

Until those improvements are made, the statement went further, “NFWB has no way of controlling for color or turbidity with respect to the overflow water during a wet weather event.”

Schumer said, in years past Congress and the president came up with effective ways of paying for infrastructure improvements, “the federal government would pay 75 percent, and we got cleaner water, better water, etc. Hopefully we can restore that if we do a major infrastructure bill, and this is just what an infrastructure bill is aimed at.”

The DEC is monitoring the Niagara Falls Wastewater Plant, with staff stationed on site. State officials say those dark water discharges constitute a violation of water quality standards, which are unacceptable, and warned the water board enforcement action could lead to fines of up to $37,000 a day.

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