The short video of black discharge swirling in the water of the Niagara River catapulted the Niagara Falls Wastewater Treatment Facility into the spotlight.
"The black water discharge that everybody remembers was partially the result of the plant being clogged up,” said Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster. “But there was also operator error, inadequate training of personnel that were involved in that, and I think those problems have been addressed.”
Addressing the discharge helped pinpoint one problem within the facility, but larger issues remained for the aging facility that was not designed to handle the flow created by heavy rains.
"We suffer from what are called combined sewer overflow,” Dyster said. “The system backs up, it can't treat all the water that's coming into the plant and some of it escapes into the river without being treated.”
Now the state is stepping up to help the city make the much-needed improvements and repairs.
A $13.5 million contribution from state coffers will be matched by the city and dedicated to upgrading the water treatment plant.
"What's happening here is that $27 million is going to be put into, I guess what you can call intra-improvements to the plant that are going to dramatically improve the performance of the plant in the short term, and at the same time be consistent with what need to be done long term for either the total reconstruction of the plant or very substantial renovations," Dyster said.
The upgrades also will address the foul odor sometimes emitted from the plant as well as create jobs. Dyster said an agreement between the water board and the state should lead to some of the needed improvements being completed next year.