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NF Water Board reflects on improvements, while seeking Albany aid

Maid of the Mist
Black material was dumped into the middle of a tourist-filled section of the Niagara River last July.

The Niagara Falls Water Board says things are turning around at its troubled Wastewater Treatment Plant. The plant became internationally infamous in July of last year, when it dumped black material into the middle of a tourist-filled section of the Niagara River.

Board Member Nicholas Forster told Monday's meeting of the board that changes and improvements are visible when visiting the plant on the edge of the Niagara Gorge, with workers pulling together to clean the Cataract City's waste water.

"First time I went down to the Wastewater Treatment Plant and looked at basins, I thought they were supposed to look like tar pits and I found out later that that's actually not how they are supposed to appear," Forster said. "If you go down there now, they are nice and clear. The first time you see them, you really don't know and you can see the improvement."

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
The Niagara Fall Water Board met Monday evening to discuss changes made at its wastewater treatment plant.

Board Chairman Daniel O'Callaghan also acknowledged changes, from hiring more people to staff giving direction to workers as to what is supposed to be going on.

"There's been direction and there's been process changes down there and actually there's been some manpower direction and we've gone through and got all the sludge out of the plant and that's what the sludge removal is," O'Callaghan said. "There's been a lot of improvements to the quality of the plant."

O'Callaghan said the board still needs help from Albany for a plan to permanently fix the plant and help get the money to rebuild or replace the plant.

"The equipment is very old and it's antiquated," he said. "The system needs a lot of maintenance and we need the outfall so that these things can never happen again. This is a carbon-type facility and we want to go to a biological facility. It's a lot better."

O'Callaghan said the plant was built in the 1970s for a heavy industry city and that has changed. The worn, aging and outdated treatment plant will undoubtedly need tens of millions of dollars in construction and reconstruction to prevent another water pollution problem.

The board has a consent decree with Albany to accomplish the changes to make sure that black water cloud does not again appear in the Gorge.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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