State Directs Niagara Falls Water Board to Immediately Undertake Projects as Required by Department of Environmental Conservation
Plant Upgrades Will Protect Iconic Niagara Falls and River
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced $27 million in investments to upgrade the Niagara Falls Wastewater Treatment Plant. The State will invest $13.5 million, which will be matched by the Niagara Falls Water Board, in immediate projects to address water quality impairments caused by the aging wastewater treatment plant. Introduced as one of Governor Cuomo's 2018 State of the State priorities, the State is directing the Niagara Falls Water Board to immediately undertake the projects as required by the binding terms of a consent order with the Department of Environmental Conservation.
"Protecting water quality and our natural resources is essential to the health of our residents and the future growth of our communities," Governor Cuomo said. "These investments will help the Niagara Falls Water Board modernize its aging water infrastructure and prevent future pollution of one our state's most treasured waterways."
"This investment by the State and the Niagara Falls Water Board will provide funding for critical projects to improve the wastewater treatment plant and protect our water," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. "The upgrades to the aging plant will help keep Niagara Falls and the Niagara River clean and safe, ensuring the health of residents and continuing to grow the economy of the area."
Department of Environmental Conservation engineering experts that continue to oversee the Niagara Falls Water Board are reviewing additional longer-term options to fully upgrade the wastewater treatment plant. The improvement projects funded by this investment are consistent with the longer-term infrastructure improvements that are currently in development and under consideration.
The projects to upgrade the Niagara Falls Wastewater Treatment Plant include:
- improving primary treatment systems and equipment;
- making improvements to the sedimentation basin and related equipment;
- rehabilitating the Gorge Pumping Station;
- replacing screens and equipment to remove grit;
- upgrading the dewatering system;
- replacing the granular activated carbon system and filter support equipment;
- completing critical repairs and improvements to the electrical, lighting, and heating and ventilation systems;
- optimizing disinfectant dosage; and
- replacing blower equipment and piping.
DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "Niagara Falls is a national and natural treasure and thanks to the Governor's leadership, today's investment to upgrade the Niagara Falls Wastewater Treatment plant is a major step forward to protect this irreplaceable resource. DEC will continue to oversee the Niagara Falls Water Board's efforts to advance these projects as directed and improve the quality and reliability of its wastewater treatment plant and collection system, as we work across the state to ensure municipalities have the resources to improve aging water infrastructure through the historic $2.5 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act and $300 million annual Environmental Protection Fund."
At Governor Cuomo's direction, the DEC has taken aggressive action in response to the Niagara Falls Wastewater Treatment Plant's discharge of black water into the Niagara River that occurred in July 2017. The discharge was caused by the wastewater treatment plant's excessive accumulation of solids/sludge, failure to follow proper maintenance procedures, and a lack of operator training.
Since the incident, the DEC has provided rigorous oversight of the Niagara Falls Water Board (NFWB) as they implemented a number of immediate measures, directed by the state, to improve operations and maintenance at the treatment plant, resulting in a substantial reduction in the discharge of pollution. These measures included repairs to sludge processing equipment, retention of an outside contractor to process sludge, improved sludge handling procedures, additional staff, and improved staff training. Following the implementation of these actions, there have been no discharges of dark-colored effluent since October 2017.
The December 2017 consent order executed with the NFWB required numerous engineering evaluations and reports to improve plant operations. Among other actions, the consent order required the NFWB to retain an engineering firm to evaluate the conversion of the existing carbon treatment plant to a more effective biological treatment system. That evaluation is ongoing.
A list of the $27 million in projects required to be implemented following an amended consent order approved by the NFWB can be viewed here.
Senator Robert G. Ortt said, "Niagara Falls is a natural wonder of the world. Its ecosystem must be preserved in order to protect the tourism economy as well as the city's residents. The events of the July 2017 black water discharge demonstrated the importance in critical infrastructure. This $27 million investment will not only help improve the environment and quality of life, it will also ensure tourists attracted to the beauty of the Falls have the best experience possible."
Assemblymember Angelo J. Morinello said, "Thank you Governor Cuomo for your assistance to upgrade an aging waste water treatment plant. Thank you also to the Niagara Falls Water Board for your 100 percent compliance with the Consent Order. Working together with the DEC and the Governor serves to benefit the community."
City of Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster said, "This is yet another welcome investment by Governor Cuomo who continues to take an aggressive stance on addressing the critical need for the modernization of our aging water infrastructure. The improvement projects announced today will help to ensure cleaner, more efficient operations at our waste water treatment plant for many years to come."