NIAGARA FALLS - The Niagara Falls Water Board has problems.
It's sewage treatment plant is old. The sewer lines carrying waste from homes and businesses also collect rain water. That typically overwhelms the city's sewage treatment plant, sending huge quantities of untreated waste into the Niagara River.
That's what happened yesterday — again. By Wednesday evening, the DEC issued a press release announcing it had initiated an investigation and called on the NFWB to take immediate action.
What's not mentioned in the press release is that unfortunately sewage discharges into New York waterways happen regularly. According to the DEC's own data, almost 300 discharges were reported in August alone. Many of those came from communities in Western New York: Town of Tonawanda, City of Tonawanda, Town of West Seneca, Town of Cheektowaga, the Buffalo Sewer Authority and Niagara Falls.
But while sewage discharges happen all over, the NFWB gets singled out in terms of public comment from state government.
The Falls board was even singled out on a recent visit by Governor Andrew Cuomo who called the operating of the city's sewage treatment plant as "wholly inexcusable".
The extra attention to the NFWB puzzles Dan Telvock, environmental reporter for Investigative Post.
"No one's going to complain that they're going to try and clean up the gorge and stop these sewer overflows, but they way they're doing it doesn't make a whole lot of sense," Telvock said.
The DEC did announce on Thursday that the agency is close to implementing a concent order with the NFWB. Typically, these kinds of agreements set improvement targets for sewage systems and dates to meet those targets.
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