I-Team: Wastewater regularly discharged into Niagara River

Recent controversy has increased attention
Posted at 11:50 PM, Aug 03, 2017

It may be the newest hobby in Niagara Falls: watching the discharge of sewage.

“We came down, we watched the discharge come out, it's a discoloration in the water,” said Mike Chatt, who brought his girlfriend to see the dark, smelly substance that has seeped into the river at the base of the falls in the last week.

Chatt was shocked at the mess, which has sparked controversy and gained national attention.

But the 7 Eyewitness News I-Team has found it happens more often than you may think.

The I-Team obtained federal data showing at least four other discharge sites above Niagara Falls -- and once we got down to the river, all we had to do was use our noses.

“It's a little smelly in there,” said Anqu Wei, a student who lives in the falls. “Yeah, it stinks.”

She was talking about an intake station run by Occidental Chemical, whose sprawling factory lines the edge of the river.

Occidental has permits from the State Department of Environmental Conservation to take dirty water at its factory, run it through a complex filtration system, clean it again at the city water plant and then dump it into the river.

It took us some searching to find a New York State permitted discharge point -- where the company that was held liable for the Love Canal environmental disaster discharges water on a regular basis.

Workers said Oxy’s water is clean and a DEC spokesman said the agency "comprehensively monitors and regulates sources of pollution to prevent violations of all water quality standards."

But Chatt isn't so sure.

“Do I trust them? No.”

At another outfall even closer to the brink of the falls -- as you drive into city on the Niagara Scenic Parkway -- an underground pipe blasts water coming from the Olin chemical plant that's supposed to be clean.

But if that's the case, fishers like Martez Thomas wonder why the State Department of Health felt the need to post a sign that says, “WARNING -- PCB CONTAMINATION” and tells people not to eat fish from the river.

“The water's contaminated,” Thomas said. “We just like fishing in clean water, you know?”

Said Marcus Feagin, another fisherman: “There's a lot of other places they could dump that oil or that stuff in there, you know?”

A spokesman for Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper had a broader question to ponder: “Why does modern society still accept the notion that we should be permitting any kind of chemical or biological discharge into our drinking water sources?”

Plant managers at Occidental Chemical and Olin Chemical did not return phone calls seeking comment on what steps are taken to purify the water before it is dumped over the falls.