The Niagara Falls Water Board (NFWB) is launching a "Wastewater Investment Initiative" (WIN) awareness campaign in response to a the wastewater spill that happened in the lower Niagara River in the summer of 2017.
In September, the NFWB admitted the technology at the Water Resource Recovery Facility responsible for the spill "is no longer the most appropriate treatment technology for the WRRF's current waste stream."
The NFWB determined the black discharge happened during the de-watering of a sedimentation basin. The pump ran longer than expected as a result of an employee misunderstanding.
To prevent a similar event, the Board says it will "implement new procedures for emptying or de-watering any basin or tank in the future."
NFWB proposed the WRRF's sludge removal process be improved by "raising/modifying" pumps to reduce the chance of discharge contaminating water.
In response, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a $20 million investment in the first phase of upgrading the NFWB's wastewater infrastructure. The State is also providing $500,000 in funding to assist the NFWB in completing two engineering studies that will evaluate both the plant's discharges and treatment systems.
As part of the deal, the NFWB must launch a Wastewater Investment Initiative campaign to continue to educate the public about existing infrastructure improvement needs both here in Western New York and across the Great Lakes Region.
"This isn't just something that we alone face here Niagara Falls. Discharges and overflows are happening into the Niagara River from just across the shoreline in Canada, as well as throughout the Great Lakes watershed. With a number of outdated wastewater treatment facilities facing similar situations and in critical need of investment, the time was very appropriate to raise this issue up," said Rolphe Porter, the Executive Director of the NFWB.
As part of the campaign, the NFWB will welcome elected local, state and federal leaders to become more involved in highlighting and advocating for infrastructure investment at aging wastewater facilities.
The initiative also includes a public education component. The board plans to issue a series of educational communications, offer a guided wastewater treatment facility tour for media, as well as host a discussion forum with select Great Lakes water quality and environmental advocacy groups and interests.