Another Niagara Falls wastewater discharge sparks investigation

Aug 16, 2017

The Niagara Falls Sewage Treatment plant is under a microscope once again. State regulators are investigating a second discharge from the plant into the lower Niagara River. 

Lower Niagara River
Credit Chris Caya WBFO News

Standing along the rim of the gorge, Department of Environmental Conservation Executive Deputy Commissioner Ken Lynch told reporters Wednesday about the latest incident in Niagara Falls that was reported on Tuesday.  
    
"There was a discharge within the system, the Niagara Falls wastewater system, which appears to be, what we call, a wet weather overflow," Lynch said.

Ken Lynch DEC Exec. Dep. Commissioner speaks to reporters outside the Niagara Falls Discovery Center.
Credit Chris Caya WBFO News

Which is likely due to recent heavy rains.
    
"We're not aware of any significant danger," Lynch said.  

And he says there's no indication that it's linked to the "black discharge" July 29.
    
"That event occurs to be a dry weather event. Meaning it was a disruption at the plant itself. Likely occurring from some maintenance activity at a sedimentation tank," Lynch said.

The DEC is looking at both incidents to make sure they are not connected. And he says they will also review the plant's procedures.   
    
"We have assembled a team and are making available all necessary resources to make sure we get to the bottom of what was the cause. And probably most importantly to make sure that this is prevented from happening again and that overflows that may occur because of wet weather situations are minimized," Lynch said.

The investigation, he said, will include reviewing the plant's history to determine whether it has the appropriate capacity and, if not, what upgrades are necessary to address the issue.

The Niagara Falls Water Board later offered additional commentary in a statement:

“What happened on Tuesday was a heavy rain event,” said Rolfe Porter, NFWB Executive Director. “During these events the waste water treatment plant receives more water than it can process and is permitted to overflow the hundred foot weir. This situation, which was different than the July 29 discharge incident, was formally reported through our permit and the alert system.”

“The NFWB permit takes into account the design limitations of the existing wastewater treatment plant, which has a filtering capacity of 60 million gallons per day,” continued Porter. “The team is currently looking at the actual amount and volume that entered the system on August 15, in order to get a full and accurate calculation. As was discussed with the DEC, our organization continues to look at potential updates and improvements that could enhance our filtering capacity.”

The NFWB also noted that the global engineering firm AECOM has been retained "to utilize the firm’s expertise in wastewater infrastructure, and determine potential facility improvements and recommendations. The firm has also been tasked to analyze the July 29 discharge incident. AECOM’s original hiring was actually prior to the July event and is not at taxpayer expense."

It noted that updates will be available at www.NFWB.org.