By Doug Draper, environment reporter/publisher, Niagara At Large
Posted August 2nd, 2017 on Niagara At Large
Niagara Falls, Ontario MPP Wayne Gates told Niagara At Large this August 2nd that he is disturbed by the way the Ontario Ministry of Environment has responded in the wake of a discharge the past July 29th of dark, foul-smelling waste to the Niagara River.
“I thought the response from the Ministry of Environment was very irresponsible,” said Gates of reports he read that a media relations officer for the ministry responded to the discharge from a waste water treatment plant in Niagara Falls, New York with an email message that read; “The ministry does not have any involvement as the incident occurred in the U.S.A.”
What is the ministry thinking,” said Gates. “There is no wall in the middle of that river” to keep pollution from drifting to the Ontario side.
The discharge occurred on a Saturday afternoon during the last full weekend of July and left what looked like a giant, inky blob floating just downstream from the American and Horseshoe Falls while countless thousands of tourists looked on.
In a phone interview with Niagara At Large, Gates applauded New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo for wasting little time calling for a full probe of the incident to determine if any violations of state or federal environmental regulations occurred at the Niagara Falls, New York plant.
Gates fired off a letter of his own to Ontario’s new Environment Minister Chris Ballard (who has just replaced the outgoing Glenn Murray), urging him to launch a provincial investigation into the incident.
“I am asking you to investigate this matter immediately and find out definitively what this black discharge was composed of, ensure that no damage was done to the Niagara River and take steps to ensure that such an incident does not occur again,” states Gates in his August 2nd letter to the minister.
The Niagara Falls MPP told Niagara At Large he also wants to know if there is any protocol at the provincial level for notifying elected leaders and other significant parties on the Ontario side of such incidents since it appears that there was little or no notification in this case.
What follows is the full text of Niagara Falls MPP Wayne Gates letter to the Ontario Minister of Environment.
“Dear Minister Ballard,
I am writing this letter to address the discharge that was released into the Niagara River from a New York State wastewater management facility on the weekend of July 29, 2017. As you are likely aware the discharge was released during a busy weekend for the tourism industry, and without warning to any of the residents, operators or authorities on the Canadian side of the Niagara River.
The discharge turned the water black and released a foul odour over quite a large area. Since the incident my office has received phone calls, emails and other correspondences from concerned residents over the discharge. Though a statement has been released outlining what the release was composed of, the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, remains concerned over the nature of leak and has ordered an immediate investigation into the wastewater that was discharged.
Myself and many residents here in Niagara share those same concerns highlighted by the Governor. Given that the Niagara River is one of Canada’s premier natural landmarks, a major economic driver for our region and a precious ecosystem, its protection is both a responsibility and a necessity.
As such, I am asking you to investigate this matter immediately and find out definitively what this black discharge was composed of, ensure that no damage was done to the Niagara River and take steps to ensure that such an incident does not occur again. By reaching out to your federal counterpart and our counterparts in New York State, you can investigate this situation and provide the information needed to assure residents that no lasting damage was done to the River and that incidents like this will not occur again in the future.
Thank you for your time and attention to this matter.
Best regards, Wayne Gates, MPP for Niagara Falls, Niagara-on-the-Lake and Fort Erie.”
You can read a commentary on this issue by Niagara At Large environment reporter and publisher Doug Draper posted earlier this August 2nd by clicking on – https://niagaraatlarge.com/2017/08/02/new-yorks-governor-acts-fast-with-call-for-probe-into-black-foul-smelling-discharge-to-niagara-river/ .
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