Invest $20 Million to Launch Phase One of Treatment Plant Overhaul to Protect Water Quality
Commit $500,000 to Accelerate Studies of Outfall, Facility Upgrades Required by Consent Order Issued by DEC
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today unveiled the 7th proposal of the 2018 State of the State: invest over $20 million to launch Phase One of the wastewater system overhaul to complete comprehensive infrastructure and operational improvements at the Niagara Falls Wastewater Treatment Facility. The Governor's proposal also provides $500,000 to expedite two engineering studies that are evaluating both the plant's discharges and treatment systems, which are required by the new consent order with the Niagara Falls Water Board. The results of these studies will help guide and inform the $20 million Phase One investment.
"The impacts of our aging water infrastructure became intolerable this year after multiple discharges discolored the pristine waters at Niagara Falls," Governor Cuomo said. "We have a responsibility to safeguard our natural resources and this administration will do everything in our power to protect the integrity of our water. This funding will help expedite these much-needed fixes, and help the Niagara Falls Water Board modernize its wastewater system."
"The incidents that threatened the Niagara River just below the world renowned Falls this year were a reminder of the vulnerability of our natural resources and our responsibility for their care and preservation," said Lieutenant Governor Hochul, who delivered today's announcement. "Governor Cuomo is once again demonstrating his commitment to Western New York with more than $20 million to upgrade the Niagara Falls water treatment plant and prevent future contamination of this historic waterway."
The Niagara Falls Wastewater Treatment Plant, which is managed by the Niagara Falls Water Board, was constructed in the 1970s and currently serves approximately 52,000 people. While the July 29 wastewater incident was largely due to human error, it drew attention to subsequent discolored discharges aggravated by deteriorating infrastructure, outdated and failing equipment, and operational issues. Following this series of discharges, Governor Cuomo directed the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to provide strict oversight of all operations at the plant and closely monitor for violations of New York's environmental laws.
Under the Governor's leadership, DEC launched an investigation into management practices of the NFWB that determined inadequate training, and the lack of regular maintenance and operational issues at the facility, have exacerbated problems and caused violations at the plant, which is already poorly designed and undersized to treat the type of effluent it receives daily. The investigation also found the facility's collection system was constructed in a way that makes effective abatement of overflows difficult.
Since the investigation, the NFWB has been working closely with DEC to address these issues, and with the launch of the first phase, critical improvements will be made to the wastewater system to deter future discharges and protect water quality for residents and visitors. It is anticipated that future phases will be rolled out following the conclusion of the expedited engineering studies which will detail the needed improvements and upgrades to the facility.
"Through DEC's thorough investigation, we identified numerous improvements to operations and maintenance of the facility and needed long term upgrades to reduce impacts to water quality," said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. "Now, through the Governor's Leadership and our binding Consent Order with the Water Board, we are providing the resources to help the Board put this facility on the expedited path to compliance to protect the Niagara River into the future."
Through the terms of the Consent Order issued by DEC, the NFWB is required to undertake two accelerated engineering studies, and conduct immediate repairs of the existing facility. An on-site monitor will also be hired to provide stringent oversight of facility operations, and ensure all facility employees have the most up to date training. The NFWB must also identify and take specific actions to develop long-term solutions to ensure the facility is properly operated and maintained.
At DEC's direction, the NFWB has already taken several corrective actions to improve plant operations and reduce threats to water quality from discharges.
The terms of the consent order include:
- A 9-month engineering study on evaluating options for plant discharges.
- A 15-month engineering study to reconstruct the plant (without shutting it down) to convert the treatment process from chemical to biological, which would eliminate all discolored discharges, as well as identify methods to dramatically enhance stormwater capture and reduce CSOs.
- Enhancing employee training and completing comprehensive updates to the plant's Operation & Maintenance manual.
- Operating consistently in accordance with the existing Wet Weather Operating Plan and revising as necessary.
- Reviewing and optimizing the Wet Weather Operating Plan to store or abate CSO flows, and evaluating possible plant or system modifications to limit CSO flows from entering and disrupting the plant.
- Improving operating treatment processes and dewatering in a manner that avoids sludge buildup.
- Eliminating stored solids more rapidly and thoroughly, improving solids handling systems, and maintaining normal solids processing rates to reduce in-facility storage.
- Putting sedimentation basin #5 back in service to handle carbon filter backwash and the removal of accumulated sludge from sedimentation basins.
An engineering report must also be submitted to DEC, which will identify subsequent phases that could also lead to treatment system upgrades to ensure that discharges are treated to the highest standards.