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New wastewater discharge in Niagara Falls sparks renewed criticism

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The Niagara Falls Water Board is facing more criticism from state regulators following another unplanned discharge from its wastewater treatment plant late Wednesday afternoon.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation responded to a report from the board anddiscovered badly discolored water in the Niagara River. The discharge occurred as the region encountered heavy rain.

“These continued violations are wholly unacceptable,” the DEC said in a written statement. “The [Water Board] must take immediate corrective measures and DEC will pursue additional enforcement as appropriate.”

Water quality violations carry a maximum fine of $37,500 a day. Last month, the state announced that it was fining the board for a previous violation.

The controversy first surfaced last summer after a discharge from the wastewater treatment plant blackened the water in the Niagara Gorge, showering global attention on the region.

The Niagara Falls Water Board issued a statement Wednesday indicating that it continues to work to “optimize” is existing system. But the statement added the outdated infrastructure and system design limitations impact its ability to handle wastewater during heavy rainfalls.

“From an overall environmental impact mitigation perspective, the NFWB maintains strong support for massive – and overdue – state and federal investment in capital infrastructure improvements at outdated wastewater treatment facilities across the Great Lakes watershed,” the board wrote.

When Gov. Cuomo visited Niagara Falls last month, he downplayed the board's contention that outdated infrastructure is the culprit.

"To say, 'Well it's an old plant' is baloney. That's creating a boogeyman. This is not about the age of the plant. This is about operator error," Cuomo said.

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