The Niagara Falls Water Board is getting nearly $3 million toward a prevention project for its wastewater treatment plant on Buffalo Avenue.
Almost six years ago, Niagara Falls was deluged with three-and-a-half inches of rain in a few hours. The sewer system caved in under the load and flooded the treatment plant and 1,100 buildings across the city. The plant was out of service for weeks.
Now, the federal dollars announced Monday by Rep. Brian Higgins (D-Buffalo) provide nearly half the money needed for the $6 million prevention program. It would build an emergency water storage tank and a connection to an underground pipe to the Niagara River.
Higgins said the rains might come again, but the damage won't.
"The project being funded through this grant would prevent that extensive damage to the plant and individual properties in the event of a similar extreme rain event in the future," he said.
"Infrastructure is key on his agenda and he has not forgotten the Niagara Falls wastewater treatment plant and the Niagara Falls Water Board," said Water Board Vice Chair Renae Kimble. "And so with this, we are going to be able to make sure that in fact, hopefully, we won't have to deal with a lot of the flooding we have been had to deal with in the past and this project is going to begin to mitigate a lot of the issues that our residents have faced."
The safety program would be visible to the public in the form of that storage building sticking out of a lawn area. Construction might start in about a year if the last of the money falls into place.
Project Manager Casey Cowan said it will start with digging a hole int the ground down to main sewer lines.
"We're going to build a structure that would redirect some of that flood water to an existing tunnel," Casey said. "That tunnel is connected to the Adams tailrace tunnel, which flows out to the Niagara River and, basically, when that event happens again in the future after the project's installed, those high water levels would then be redirected to the Lower Niagara River."
This project has nothing to do with the July 2017 flow of black gunk into the Niagara Gorge during tourist season. That is being handled by $27 million in Water Board projects to improve operations of the sewer system and the Wasterwater Treatment Plant.