NIAGARA FALLS NY – In a statement posted on its website late Wednesday afternoon, the Niagara Falls Water Board states that it is continuing to investigate a sewer discharge which turned a portion of the Niagara River below the world famous Niagara Falls black.
The incident occurred on a busy Saturday afternoon in full view of thousands of visitors during the height of the summer tourist season.
According to the statement, Water Board officials met with a representative of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) for an open dialog about what the water Board now refers to as ““operational and human factors behind the incident”.
Water Board chairman Dan O’Callaghan, who ascended to that post in January while promising to turn over a new leaf at the agency, has yet to make himself available to speak on camera.
And the last time we actually heard from Executive Director Rolfe Porter was on Sunday—when he insisted that while the timing was unfortunate, the release had to be done to allow for repairs to a sediment basin at the wastewater treatment plant, and that the agency operated within the bounds of its discharge permit.
However, the DEC is already saying the water board is at least guilty of violating clean water standards, and has pledged a full investigation of the operation of its waste water treatment plant, from which the sewage discharge emanated.
Meanwhile Colleen Larkin, a member of the board of commissioners appointed to oversee the Water Board told WGRZ-TV she too would like to get some answers, confirming that even she has been unable to speak with Porter since Sunday.
“I want to know what happened, obviously,” said Larkin. “I’m sure there is a reasonable explanation but until we get the facts, speculating doesn’t do anyone any good. Once we get the facts, we also need to explore areas of improvement and ask ourselves how we can do better in the future.”
Larkin was appointed as a water board commissioner by NY State Senator Rob Ortt, who in a statement said, “This is an embarrassment for the Niagara Falls Water Board and they owe the public a swift and full explanation. We need to know what happened, who's responsible, and what will be done to fix it. The people of Niagara Falls deserve much better than this. I look forward to seeing the result of the investigation.”
Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster, who also appoints a commissioner to the board, issued a statement expressing disappointment about the lack of communication following the incident.
“While it is important to note that we regularly partner on items of importance to residents, the Niagara Falls Water Board operates independently of city government. I am disappointed in the unfortunate lapse in communication regarding Saturday’s incident and look forward to the Board’s full cooperation in their efforts to rectify the situation,” Dyster said.