BUFFALO, N.Y. — Nearly every time there's heavy rain, untreated sewage overflows into Western New York waterways.
The scary takeaway is that it's not uncommon, and it likely won't be fixed anytime soon.
At least some municipalities around WNY, like Buffalo, Lockport and Niagara Falls have what's called combined sewage, meaning both rain runoff and your own waste flow through the same pipes. Those water systems are even more prone to having problems.
"You look at a place like Scajaquada Creek, you can visibly see how bad it is, and that is because of sewer overflow,” said Dan Telvock, Investigative Post’s environmental reporter.
Between Tuesday, August 22, and Wednesday, August 23, sewage plant reports indicated about 15 untreated sewage overflows between Niagara and Erie Counties.
Thanks to the "Sewage Pollution Right to Know" law, enacted in 2013, anyone can track these overflows on New York's DEC website. What's more: The problem won't be fixed any time soon.
"On average it seems they're getting between 10 and 20 years to do this, so it's going to take a long time for places like Cheektowaga, Buffalo, West Seneca, Tonawanda to fix their sewer systems, and they were given that amount of time because it costs a lot of money,” Telvock said.
You, the taxpayer, will fund fixing or replacing the old infrastructure eventually. That’s the other reason this might take decades is so that your water bill will increase only a little year to year, rather than a large rate hike all at once.
"You may get the good news that oh, they're going to clean it up, but the bad news is it's going to take 10, 15, 20 years to do it,” Telvock said.
This is not just a local problem; Old infrastructure is a problem all over the country. The EPA estimates there are up to 75,000 such sewage overflows across the nation every year. Ultimately, it will be up to the New York D.E.C. to see the local upgrades through in an appropriate amount of time.