Dyster’s Water Board shifts blame after half inch of rain causes disaster

In Niagara Falls

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For the third time since the end of July, a little bit of rain on Wednesday caused a major discharge of raw sewage from the Niagara Falls wastewater treatment plant into the Niagara River, the state Department of Environmental Conservation reported.

The event came just two months after the last time tourists were subjected to noxious smelling,  black colored water in the basin below the mighty cataracts, state officials said.

The department said the resulting “badly discolored” river water violated the state’s water quality standards.

“These continued violations are wholly unacceptable,” the DEC said in a statement. It said the maximum penalty for water quality violations is $37,500 per day, per violation.

The Niagara Falls Water Board reported to the DEC that excess sewage was discharged when its wastewater treatment plant’s processing capacity was exceeded during what they called a “heavy” rainfall.

According to the National Weather Service, about one half of one inch of rain fell on Niagara Falls Wednesday.

The Water Board statement said it has no way of controlling the color of overflow discharge when it rains, before starting to beg for state aid. It said the overflow was “a direct result of outdated infrastructure and system design limitations.”

In late July, a foul-smelling discharge turned the water near the base of Niagara Falls an alarming shade of black during a busy tourist weekend.

The state fined the water board $50,000 and said the agency would have to make changes at the plant and obtain state approval before any future discharges.

Local water officials blamed that incident on the outdated equipment, as well as miscommunication between employees.

The city water board was the brainchild of former city councilman and current Mayor Paul Dyster who, in 2002, was looking for a way to advance himself from councilman to mayor. At that time, water and sewer rate increases were passed by City Council, and Mr. Dyster spearheaded the drive to spin water and sewer service off into a “public benefit corporation” he and other city officials could hide behind to avoid responsibility for an essential city service.

Dyster’s scheme has been an unmitigated disaster for city residents, who have seen rates skyrocket, the natural wonder they live beside polluted unimaginably, and endured no water service at all in some neighborhoods for months at a time.

The Niagara Falls Water Board was cited yet again this week for polluting the Niagara River below the Falls. Constructed in the early 1970’s, the then state-of-the-art facility, built to handle the wastes of the formerly large local chemical industry, now features “outdated infrastructure and system design limitations” according to the Water Board.

In a statement Wednesday night, the DEC said it was notified of the discharge by the Niagara Falls Water Board and started an investigation.

The statement noted that DEC officials “observed badly discolored water in the Niagara River – which clearly constitutes a violation of the state’s water quality standards. These continued violations are wholly unacceptable. The NFWB must take immediate corrective measures and DEC will pursue additional enforcement as appropriate.”

A statement from the Water Board, also issued Wednesday night, noted that it is unable to prevent discharges when it rains.

The statement said, “The root cause of such overflow occurrences – of which the DEC is well aware and has been working with the NFWB on – is a direct result of outdated infrastructure and system design limitations that impact overall facility capacity during heavy volume periods. The NFWB also has no way of controlling for color or turbidity with respect to the overflow water during a wet weather event.”

The Water Board added that “extensive efforts do remain underway to identify potential short- and long-term solutions to mitigate these existing facility constraints.”

The costly, Dyster-created Frankenstein that is the Water Board has been of no benefit whatsoever to Niagara Falls businesses and residents. It has, like most of the mayor’s ideas, proven to be a liability.

A half an inch of rain.

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