NIAGARA FALLS, NY - The DEC says that the City of Niagara Falls has been operating an unauthorized dumping ground in the city.
For years, city workers from the department of public works used city-owned land on New Road in the Falls as a dumping site. The land sits right across from Niagara Falls High School. Crews would dump tree limbs, leaves and even dirt from street sweepers there. But, city officials quickly learned this dumping was in violation of state law.
"It's an unfortunate situation that my office is dealing with DPW, now we know what can and cannot be stored and where," said Nicholas Melson, the city administrator.
City officials say an investigation led by the Department of Environmental Conservation began earlier this year, when a report surfaced that a dead dog was dumped here. When investigators went to the scene, it was confirmed a dog had been left here and city officials say they found piles and piles of illegal dumping. Trash, furniture and electronics were found.
The city administrator says this illegal dumping was done by residents and contractors, not the city.
"In the process of analyzing the stuff that was back there, the DEC determined at that time that the sweeper dirt, which is the debris from our street sweeper and some tree limbs, should not be stored there," Melson said.
The DEC did not speak to us on camera. However, a consent order agreed to in principle by the DEC and the city says the city, "Knowingly operated a solid waste management facility without approval."
And, because of this, the city has been fined $2,500 -- the city council is expected to vote Tuesday night on whether taxpayer funds should be used to pay the fine.
"It's very unfortunate that's the problem, when obviously the taxpayers pay for services they expect us to get it right and when we don't get it right it costs the taxpayers to fix the problem," said Niagara Falls City Council president Andy Touma.
As for the dumping ground, the DEC has forced the city to start cleaning up the site. City officials say they've been in the process of doing this for the past several months. The consent order calls for the city to have all the debris and trash cleaned up within a year. This dump is a mile long.
If the site isn't completely cleaned up, the state could fine the city as much as $10,000. Until then, the city needs to file monthly progress reports to the DEC on how the cleanup process is going. DPW officials tell 2 On Your Side, they know it'll be a daunting task to get the mess cleaned up.
The DPW says that the debris will instead be shipped to a composting location operated by Modern Corporation in Lewiston.