“Sewage system overflows are typically not black in colour.” … but overflows from this plant certainly are, and they are highly odorous too. When are they going to stop?
A Brief News Commentary by Doug Draper
Posted October 11th, 2017 on Niagara At Large
Niagara Falls, Ontario/New York – A Niagara Falls, New York wastewater treatment plant – the source of a massive discharge waste that made international news this past summer when countless thousands of tourists watched the waters below the Falls turn inky black – has allowed let another discharge of waste reach the Niagara River, according to a recent report in The Buffalo News.
According to The Buffalo News report, the latest discharge from the city’s aging wastewater plant occurred this past Monday, October 9th when heavy rains hitting the region caused an overflow of pollution to enter the Niagara River immediately downstream from the Horseshoe and American Falls, and darken the waters for any residents and visitors in the area to see.
Once again, the report continues, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is investigating the discharge, just as it investigated the massive discharge late last July, that led to a $50,000 fine and some tight rules on the plant’s operations.
“Discoloured water could be seen below the world-famous cataracts, a scene similar to what became an international spectacle (with that huge discharge) over the summer,” said The Buffalo News. Reports from the scene near the Maid of the Mist docks at around 11 a.m. (on October 9th), indicated a strong odor of chlorine in the area. …”
“Sewage system overflows are typically not black in colour,” the newspaper report added.
From my many years covering Niagara River and Great Lakes issues as an environment reporter, that last line from The Buffalo News dispatch is correct.
Sewage overflows from municipal wastewater treatment plans are not typically plant, but this plant in Niagara Falls, New York is no typical plant.
First put into operation four decades ago, it was built not only to treat the typical streams of wastewater that enter municipal plants from sinks, wash tubs, toilets and road gutters, it was also furnished with a special system of carbon filter beds, to treat effluent piped to its from Occidental and other chemical manufacturing plant in the Niagara Falls, New York area.
So when the treatment systems break down or are overwhelmed by the amount of wastewater entering the plant, there is reason for concern that whatever overflows into a Niagara River that serves as a source of drinking water for millions of Americans and Canadians downstream around Lake Ontario, could be laced with toxic chemicals.
The Niagara Falls Water Board, the municipal body responsible for operations at the Niagara Falls, New York plant, noted in a statement this October 9th that the plant “lacks substantial storage facilities” to sometimes deal with the volumes of wastewater entering the plant during heavy rain storms.
That statement may very well be true and it is also true that the City of Niagara Falls, New York, through little or no fault of its own, has suffered massive job and economic losses over the past three decades due to industries taking advantage of corporation friendly provisions in NAFTA and other international trade agreements to move their industrial operations out of town and country.
That is obviously making it very hard for a Niagara Falls, New York so burdened by economic hardship to upgrade its intrastructure, including wastewater treatment systems costing billions of dollars, but what now looks like a case of serial discharges of untreated effluent from this particular plant cannot be allowed to continue.
New York State and the U.S. federal governments have agreements and treaties with Canada and its provinces to protect the health of boundary waters for the sake of citizens in both countries.
In this case, the U.S. and state governments must step in and provide the funding the City of Niagara Falls, New York needs to upgrade this plant so that it does not pose a health and environmental threat to wildlife and to millions of people downstream who depend on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River as a source of drinking water.
Fortunately, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has expressed concern about discharges from this plant but the upgrades, whatever the costs, need to be made and Canada’s federal government and the Ontario government have got join in pressing their U.S. counterparts to get the job done.
Statements, like the one an Ontario Ministry of Environment spokesperson circulated to the media this past summer, that this is an American issue and not one for Canadian government bodies to get involved in, do a disservice to the people of both countries that have a shared responsibility for stewardship here.
Doug Draper is a professional journalist and publisher of Niagara At Large, who whose reporting career from the late 1970s through the 1980s and 90s earned him several awards and certificates of achievement for his coverage of environmental issues.
To read The Buffalo News report, published this past October, 9th, on the Monday, October 9th pollution discharge to the Niagara River, click on – http://buffalonews.com/2017/10/09/black-discharge-returns-niagara-falls/ .
To read a report on another recent discharge of waste from the Niagara Falls, N.Y. wastewater plan, circulated by the Associated Press and carried online by CBC, click on – http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/more-sewage-water-leaks-into-niagara-river-1.4338668 .
To read a news commentary Niagara At Large posted on this issue following the huge discharge last July 29th, click on – https://niagaraatlarge.com/2017/08/01/was-that-dark-and-scary-blob-flushing-down-the-river-below-niagara-falls-laced-with-chemical-poisons/
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