Water Treatment Facility Failed to Notify DEC of Discharge and May Have Violated Water Quality Standards
DEC Water Engineers and Law Enforcement Professionals Dispatched to Inspect Water Treatment Facility and Determine Corrective Actions and if Penalties are Warranted
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today directed the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to conduct an investigation into discharges from the City of Niagara Falls wastewater treatment plant into the Niagara River that occurred on Saturday, July 29. DEC Environmental Conservation Officers immediately responded to reports of a black discharge with strong odors in the Niagara River on Saturday and have launched an investigation into this significant incident in coordination with DEC water engineers.
"Any violations of the state's water quality standards are a serious issue, and I have directed DEC to immediately get to the bottom of why this event occurred and ensure steps are taken to ensure it doesn't happen again," Governor Cuomo said. "Niagara Falls and the Niagara River are a world-class destination for tourists and we should not be polluting this unparalleled natural resource."
According to operators at the Niagara Falls Water Board's Wastewater Treatment Plant, the cause of the discharge was the emptying of a sediment settling basin at the plant to allow for treatment modifications. The sediment basin in question is used solely for carbon filter "backwash water" from cleaning the carbon filters and does not receive raw untreated sewage. If effluent was released from this settlement basin it would contain backwash contaminants, solids and carbon particulates, which would be consistent with a noticeable black plume and odors in the Niagara River near the plant outfall.
DEC was not notified in advance of Saturday's release from the City of Niagara Falls wastewater treatment plant. Under state Water Quality Standards, such discharges cannot adversely affect the Niagara River's color, odor or cause a substantial visible contrast to natural conditions. DEC's institution of an enforcement action or assessment of penalties will be dependent on the results of the ongoing investigation. Causing or contributing to a violation of a state water quality standard carries a potential penalty of up to $37,500 per violation.