Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed state regulators Monday night to investigate wastewater discharge that turned water at the base of Niagara Falls black over the weekend.
The governor asked the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation to begin an immediate investigation into whether the city of Niagara Falls wastewater treatment plant violated any water quality standards.
Officers for the regulatory agency responded to a report of a black, foul smelling discharge in the Niagara River on Saturday between the American Falls and Rainbow Bridge.
“Any violations of the state’s water quality standards are a serious issue, and I have directed DEC to immediately get to the bottom of why this event occurred and ensure steps are taken to ensure it doesn’t happen again,” said Cuomo in a statement. “Niagara Falls and the Niagara River are a world-class destination for tourists and we should not be polluting this unparalleled natural resource.”
The cause of the discharge was the emptying of a sediment settling basin at the Niagara Falls Water Board’s wastewater treatment plant, operators at the plant said. The sediment basin was being used to collect carbon filter “backwash water” from cleaning the carbon filters, the governor’s office said. The basin does not receive raw untreated sewage.
According to Cuomo’s office, the city of Niagara Falls wastewater treatment plant didn’t notify the DEC in advance that it was going to empty the basin. If the investigation finds the board in violation of state water quality standards, the Niagara Falls Water Board could be fined up to $37,500 per violation.
The Buffalo News reported over the weekend that tourists at Niagara Falls State Park were alarmed at the black water.In a statement, the Niagara Falls Water Board said that the substance being discharged is a result of “routine maintenance.”
“The ‘inky water’ is a result of a routine, necessary and short-term change in the wastewater treatment process. We apologize for causing alarm to residents, tourists and others. The blackish water contained some accumulated solids and carbon residue within permitted limits and did not include any organic type oils or solvents. The unfortunate odor would be limited to the normal sewer water discharge smell,” the statement from the Niagara Falls Water Board said.