Another Wastewater Discharge in Niagara Falls

Latest comes after Heavy Rains, State Punishment

October 09, 2017 - 11:24 am

(WBEN) A spokesperson for the Niagara Falls Water Board confirms that once again there has been a discharge from their plant into the Lower Niagara River, just weeks after the state imposed a series of fines and training procedures to prevent such an occurrence.

The discharge occurred when heavy rains sent too much storm water into the plant and pushed out some sewage overflows.

On September 14, the NY State Dept. of Environmental Conservation and the water board entered into a consent order agreement, with the agency demanding state approval for any future discharges.  The agreement - akin to a legal settlement- also required the agency to make changes at its aging wastewater plant and subjects the the Niagara Falls Water Board to a $50,000 fine for discharging black and smelly water near the falls during a busy tourist weekend.

A July 29 discharge (pictured above) caused discolored water to empty into the Niagara River near the American side of the falls on a summer weekend critical to the local tourism industry. The foul-smelling discharge enveloped the dock for the popular Maid of the Mist tour boats.

“We have to make sure it never ever happens again,”  Gov. Andrew Cuomo said then in announcing the agreement.  He added that the state determined the discharge was the result of “basic breaches of protocol” at the plant.

 Local water officials have blamed outdated equipment and miscommunication between employees for the incident. The board also has been cited for an unrelated discharge in August.


The Niagara Falls Water Board issued the following statement:

On Monday, October 9, 2017, a wet weather event – heavy and prolonged rainfall – in Niagara Falls
resulted in a discharge/overflow from the NFWB’s wastewater system. As with other recent overflow
events, this resulted from the volume of flow into the NFWB wastewater system exceeding the
system’s existing storage and plant processing capacity. NFWB has no way of controlling for color or
turbidity with respect to the overflow water during a wet weather event.

Such overflows happen because the existing wastewater treatment facility has a treatment capacity of
approximately 60 million gallons over the course of a day. This capacity limit is impacted by the
outdated carbon filter system through which flows must pass for treatment. Most modern wastewater
plants treating waste streams similar to what the NFWB plant treats use a biological – not
chemical/physical with carbon-filtration – treatment process. NFWB’s system lacks substantial storage
facilities, so when flows exceed the plant’s treatment capacity due to heavy rain, a discharge or
overflow cannot be avoided. NFWB is examining long-term solutions to these issues, including
converting its wastewater treatment plant to a biological technology, and constructing additional
storage capacity, to reduce untreated or partially treated wastewater overflows.

This overflow was immediately reported to DEC officials, pursuant to their recent instructions.
NFWB continues to work to optimize its existing wastewater treatment system, and is committed
to providing the best treatment possible using its existing technology.

As NFWB has made clear in previous statements, 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.

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. State-of-the art solutions to the challenges facing aging wastewater treatment systems
come with a substantial cost, and it is vital that state and federal elected officials support such
necessary investment.

The NFWB remains wholly committed to proper wastewater treatment and the distribution of the
highest-quality drinking water consistent with public health laws and regulations, as well as the public
enjoyment of natural resources, the protection of fish and wildlife, the economic development of the
city of Niagara Falls and the general well-being of the surrounding area.

The NFWB will continue to provide periodic public and ratepayer updates on overflow and other
discharge matters as such information becomes
available, via

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