Governor Cuomo in town to address black discharge at Niagara Falls

Posted at 11:20 AM, Sep 14, 2017

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) said they are holding the Niagara Falls Water Board (NFWB) accountable for the black discharge that was leaked from the water plant on Buffalo Avenue on July 29. 

“This situation was inexcusable,” Cuomo said standing at the Niagara Gorge Discovery Center on Thursday. “We have a plant, and they just improperly operated the plant.” 

The July 29th discharge incident is one of two from the plant that remain under investigation by the NYSDEC. However, DEC Deputy Commissioner Ken Lynch said the NFWB is responsible for a number of deficiencies. 

“The black discharge was the result of human error,” Lynch said. “The NFWB violated state law, state regulations, and the facility’s operating permit.”

The NYSDEC imposed the following regulations on the NFWB:  

--prohibits the NFWB from any further black water discharges

--restricts the NFWB from making any discharges from its sediment basins without DEC approval.

--requires NFWB to retrain all employees and update all training materials to ensure all operational protocols are followed. 

--a $50,000 fine for unlawful discharges. 

“In short, we demand that the Board make fixing this plant, and end further illegal discharges as a priority,” Lynch added. 

Those effected by the discharge aren't sure they support the state's punishment. "This whole river is frustrating as far as how it's been treated as a dumping ground for decades. It's a sin," explained fisherman, Chris Emes. "Every time they get a heavy rain, they have an overflow. So, I don't know if there's anything they can do about it," added fellow fisherman, Gerald Norgiel. 

A spokesman for the NFWB said it hasn’t yet seen the regulations. It’s expecting the NYSDEC to hand deliver a copy soon. 

“I want the NFWB to know under no uncertain terms, this will not be tolerated,” Cuomo said. “It was a terrible situation and a terrible breakdown and we won’t allow it to happen again,” he concluded. 

In response to the developments from Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state DEC, the Niagara Falls Water Board released the following statement:

Today the NFWB was made aware of various public comments offered by Governor Andrew Cuomo and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation regarding the July 29th black water discharge situation and related incident report findings.

As the NFWB has not yet had the opportunity to review the draft consent order referenced by Governor Cuomo, we cannot therefore comment on its contents; however, the board does look forward to assessing the documents and will subsequently work with the DEC to improve plant performance and prevent any re-occurrences.

We have always been and remain committed to doing everything possible with the technology in place to safeguard the natural beauty of the Niagara River and to comply with and exceed wherever possible all environmental rules, standards and permits.  

The NFWB joins Governor Cuomo and the DEC in a united desire to preserve the natural wonder of Niagara Falls. We will continue to work with DEC in the coming weeks and months, and expect to engage in ongoing, collaborative dialogue regarding the terms of the draft consent order to maximize the environmental benefits of any improvements made.

The NFWB will continue to provide periodic public and ratepayer updates on overflow and other discharge matters as such information becomes available. Updates will be available at www.NFWB.org.