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Niagara Falls Water Board offers additional comments on second overflow; DEC investigating

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Thu, Aug 17th 2017 09:25 am
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Executive Deputy Commissioner Kenneth Lynch addresses the media Wednesday outside the Niagara Discovery Center.
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Executive Deputy Commissioner Kenneth Lynch addresses the media Wednesday outside the Niagara Discovery Center.
Organization 'working collaboratively with NYSDEC to analyze situation, undertake facility tour and examination'
AECOM also continuing review efforts and expected to provide confidential recommendations in coming week
The Niagara Falls Water Board on Wednesday offered additional commentary regarding an overflow that occurred on Aug. 15, following a heavy rain event in Niagara County. This volume overflow situation was formally reported via the State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit and NY Alert System Tuesday afternoon.
"What happened on Tuesday was a heavy rain event," said Rolfe Porter, NFWB executive director. "During these events, the wastewater treatment plant receives more water than it can process and is permitted to overflow the hundred-foot weir. This situation, which was different than the July 29 discharge incident, was formally reported through our permit and the alert system."
On Wednesday afternoon, executive and professional staff from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation visited the NFWB facilities for follow-up meetings and a tour of the wastewater treatment plant, all as part of a wider analysis of the overflow and the separate matter of the July 29 discharge.
"The NFWB permit takes into account the design limitations of the existing wastewater treatment plant, which has a filtering capacity of 60 million gallons per day," Porter said. "The team is currently looking at the actual amount and volume that entered the system on Aug. 15, in order to get a full and accurate calculation. As was discussed with the DEC, our organization continues to look at potential updates and improvements that could enhance our filtering capacity."
Earlier this year, the NFWB retained global engineering firm AECOM to utilize the firm's expertise in wastewater infrastructure, and determine potential facility improvements and recommendations. The firm has also been tasked to analyze the July 29 discharge incident.
AECOM's original hiring was actually prior to the July event and is not at taxpayer expense.
The NFWB will continue to provide periodic public and ratepayer updates on this matter as information becomes available. Updates will be available at www.NFWB.org.
On Wednesday, NYSDEC visited with local media in an attempt to explain what happened Tuesday as 3 million gallons on untreated sewage and storm water were released into the outflow tunnel at the base of Niagara Falls, according to news reports.
"We are making available all necessary resources to make sure we get to the bottom what was the cause, and probably most importantly to make sure this is prevented from happening again. And that overflows that may occur from wet weather situations (are addressed)," said Kenneth Lynch, NYSDEC executive deputy commissioner.
Lynch attributed the discharge to the series of heavy rains that have been hitting the Buffalo-Niagara region over past days as contributing to Tuesday's excessive outflows from the Niagara Falls Water Board wastewater treatment plant.
The outflow tunnel near the Maid of the Mist dock at the American Falls is the same location as the July 29 release, which saw hundreds of millions of gallons of black, inky, smelly wastewater discharged as thousands of tourists visiting the area looked on.
Niagara Falls Water Board officials attributed that release to human error and are continuing to work with NYSDEC in looking into the matter. Lynch said that release, as well as Tuesday's incident, remains under investigation.
Lynch did not indicate there was any link to the July 29 release.
"All overflows will be looked at," he said. "We'll look at the history of the plant, it's recent and past history."
Asked whether the Niagara Falls plant's problems could be due to age and capacity issues, Lynch said, "There is a long-term control plan for the plant. (DEC will find) what it can and cannot handle as far as flows."
He said DEC continues to review the plant's recent and extended past history "to determine what's happening here, is there appropriate capacity, and, if not, what upgrades are necessary to address the issue."
Editor-in-Chief Terry Duffy contributed to this report.

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