Brock prof says people have reason to be concerned over Niagara River discharge

A News release from Brock University in St. Catharines/Niagara

Posted August 3rd, 2017 on Niagara At Large

In his four decades of studying water contamination, Ian Brindle has learned that when something doesn’t smell right, there’s likely more to the story.

Brock prof and chemist Ian Brindle

That’s why the Brock University Emeritus Professor of Chemistry isn’t buying the story of the Niagara Falls, N.Y. Water Board that a discharge from a wastewater treatment plant which turned part of the Niagara River black on the weekend was completely above board.

“There’s a lot of stuff that goes through those treatment plants so it doesn’t strike me as being necessarily benign from a chemical standpoint,” says Brindle, a renowned researcher who has spent his career studying water contamination in Niagara and beyond. “They need to educate people. They can’t just do this and then seek an apology after the fact. It’s disgraceful.”

The black water discharge surrounded the Maid of the Mist dock area on the American side of the Niagara River and was visible to the thousands of tourists in the Niagara Falls area on a busy summer weekend.

This week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, as well as Niagara Falls MPP Wayne Gates have called for an investigation into what happened.

An sky high view of the Saturday, July 29th discharge incident, with the inky pollution surrounding a Maid of Mist boat along the American side of the Niagara River, just downstream from the American and Horseshoe Falls.

Brindle says it brings back memories from 30 years ago when Atlas Steel in Welland dumped chemicals into the Welland River that turned the waterway orange.

“That was an extremely visible and very concerning event that happened,” he says. “But there we knew what was going on because we knew where it was coming from. With a wastewater treatment plant, you don’t know what you’re dealing with.

“To say there’s nothing to worry about, I’d like to see the documentation. They should be reporting some numbers instead of saying ‘everything is okay.’ I’ve heard that too many times before,” Brindle says.

(A  Footnote from Niagara At Larger reporter and publisher Doug Draper- When I was a fulltime reporter at The St. Catharines Standard through the 1980s and 90s, I often called Ian Brindle at Brock University to tap into his expertise as I worked to communicate what was sometimes very complicated information about chemical pollutants to readers.

Ian Brindle also ventured out into the field to investigate contaminated sites himself and on a few occasions, we accompanied each other on trips to toxic sites in the Niagara River watershed.

On one occasion in the mid- to late 1980s, Ian Brindle agreed to take a jar of oily goo that two citizens scooped up from the bottom of what looked like a storm water pond at a PCB storage site in the West Lincoln town of Smithville and run the goo through tests at a lab at Brock University.

The tests showed the goo was loaded with heavy concentrations of PCBs and Brindle promptly reported the discovery to the Ontario Ministry of Environment, prompting an immediate call by then Ontario Environment Minister Jim Bradley for an investigation that led to the discovery that PCBs were spreading through the ground, in the direction of the town’s drinking water reservoir.

Had it not been for Brindle’s willingness to test that goo and report the results to provincial authorities, thousands of people in the Smithville area might have been consuming water for drinking and cooking with hazardous chemicals in it.

So suffice to say, this reporter takes any concerns Ian Brindle raises about the recent discharge of wastes to the Niagara River seriously.

Thank you Ian for being there and still caring!  Doug Draper, environment reporter)

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 “A politician thinks of the next election. A leader thinks of the next generation.” – Bernie Sanders


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