DEC Will Require Water Board to Immediately Update Protocols and Provide Training for Staff to Prevent Further Violations of New York Water Quality Standards
DEC Issues Consent Order Restricting the Board from Making Any Discharges from the Sediment Basins at the Plant Without DEC Approval
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today directed the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to take a series of actions to hold the Niagara Falls Water Board accountable and protect water quality. DEC is assessing a $50,000 penalty and issuing a consent order that would prohibit the board from making any black water discharges, restrict the board from making any discharges from the sediment basins at the plant without DEC approval, and other provisions to prevent further violations of New York water quality standards.
This comes a result of the investigation ordered by Governor Andrew Cuomo following the July 29 incident, which found that the Niagara Falls Water Board has not properly maintained equipment nor adequately trained workers, and generally failed to follow appropriate protocols. DEC's consent order with the water board will address these deficiencies to prevent further water quality violations.
"Polluting one of world's greatest wonders is completely intolerable and unacceptable, and this action today will hold the Niagara Falls Water Board accountable, require them to clean up their practices and protect the economically important Niagara River," Governor Cuomo said. "I am directing DEC to continue to closely monitor operations of the plant to guarantee immediate steps are taken to prevent future violations."
After the July 29 discharge, DEC ordered the water board to provide a full report on the causes of the illegal discharge. Based on the findings, Governor Cuomo is directing DEC to bring legal action against the Niagara Falls Water Board for violations of water quality standards due to its mismanagement of the plant's operations which lead to the human errors that caused the discharge. The Consent Order DEC proposed today will:
- Prohibit the Board from making any black water discharges;
- Restrict the Board from making any discharges from Sedimentation Basin 5 at the plant without DEC approval;
- Require the Board to update all operational protocols and policies to prevent violations of water quality standards;
- Require the Board to re-train all plaint employees and update all training materials to ensure that the new operational protocols are followed
- Require the board to pay a $50,000 penalty as a result of the unlawful discharges.
Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "Through the Governors leadership, DEC continues to closely oversee practices at the Niagara Falls Wastewater Treatment Plant to ensure no violations of water quality standards continue. Once executed, this agreement will solidify important steps to improve plant operations to prevent future discharges from occurring and we urge the Niagara Falls Water Board to quickly sign this Order."
"I am directing DEC to continue to closely monitor operations of the plant to guarantee immediate steps are taken to prevent future violations."
DEC will continue its investigation and oversight of operations at the Niagara Falls Water Board Wastewater Treatment Plant, its collection system and combined sewer overflows, including the CSO on August 15, 2017. Appropriate additional measures may be warranted to assure that the plant and system is properly operated and maintained.
DEC will also require the water board to submit a detailed description and summary regarding its reporting and notification of CSOs and sanitary sewer overflows. Penalties associated with the Notice of Violation range up to $37,500 per day, per violation, as well as injunctive relief.
Governor Cuomo is making historic investments to safeguard water quality. The Clean Water Infrastructure Act of 2017 invests a record $2.5 billion in critical water infrastructure across New York State. This generational investment in drinking water infrastructure, wastewater infrastructure, and source water protection actions will enhance community health and wellness, safeguard the State's most important water resources, and create jobs. Funding for projects will prioritize regional and watershed level solutions, and incentivize consolidation and sharing of water and wastewater services.