News Feature | August 3, 2017

Governor Starts Probe Of Niagara Falls Wastewater Discharge

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

niagara falls regs new

After black, smelly water from a wastewater treatment plant enveloped parts of Niagara Falls this past weekend, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is calling for a state investigation of potential breaches of water quality standards.

"Any violations of the state's water quality standards are a serious issue, and I have directed Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to immediately get to the bottom of why this event occurred and ensure steps are taken to ensure it doesn't happen again," Cuomo said, per The Buffalo News. "Niagara Falls and the Niagara River are a world-class destination for tourists and we should not be polluting this unparalleled natural resource."

Cuomo called on state officials to investigate the smelly, black discharge, which is getting worldwide attention, The Buffalo News reported.

Cuomo's remarks "cast doubt" on claims by officials in the city of Niagara Falls, NY, The New York Times reported. The city water board said the discharge was “within permitted limits.”

“The water board for the city of Niagara Falls said it had emptied a sediment settling basin at its wastewater treatment plant during the course of routine maintenance. The basin is used for backwash water from cleaning the operation's carbon filters and does not receive raw sewage,” the Times reported, citing the governor's office.

Cuomo responded to claims from the city: "The original version of — 'Well, we did this and this was pursuant to a (DEC) permit' — I don't believe is true," Cuomo said, per the Times. "They have a DEC permit to operate the facility, but it has to be operated in a proper way."

Discharge of carbon filter backwash into the river is allowed, the report said, but it has to occur within state water quality standards. Current standards prohibit discharges that change the color or appearance of the Niagara River, the report said.

State officials said it is unlikely the discharge posed a threat to human health. Nevertheless, tourism operators “complained” about the circumstances, The Record reported.

Boat touring company Maid of the Mist “posted an aerial photo detailing a wide swath of black water and called out Niagara Falls, NY, Mayor Paul Dyster, asking why such a discharge would go ahead on a busy tourist weekend,” the report said.

For similar stories visit Water Online’s Source Water Contamination Solutions Center.

Image credit: "Niagara Falls," Greg Knapp © 2010, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/