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NF Water Board raises water rates

Mike Desmond

The Niagara Falls Water Board voted Monday night to raise rates, saying it has turned around an organization that desperately needed change.

Problems at the Water Board were obvious July 29 when black material was flushed into the Niagara Gorge at the height of the tourist season and the images were flashed across the world.

Water Board Member Nicholas Forster said the plant badly needed repairs after decades of neglect and those repairs are being made, along with many other changes to make the utility system work better.

He said lack of maintenance and management probably contributed to the dumping of waste materials into the Niagara Gorge.

"Obviously, we're doing some restoration work if you want to say at the wastewater treatment plant," Forster said. "It's hard to believe that for almost 20 years how much neglect that's been going on down there, with all kinds of repairs that we're doing."

However, he said it has been "a good year" for Board members, "with the exception of one incident on the 29th of July."

"We're moving forward in making any corrections that were necessary to make sure that we don't have those type of issues in the future," Forster said.

Director of Technical and Regulatory Services Doug Williamson agreed, the agency is getting a handle on its problems.

"We have a flow monitoring program," Williamson said. "We've made several improvements to the LaSalle area and we're controlling the flows coming in. A lot of the issues that we have, quite honestly, are with sewer laterals from private properties, home owners, that kind of stuff. That's difficult for us to control."

Williamson said the network of pipes is in bad shape, with the board just finishing repairs on a pipe that had collapsed underground.

Forster said the water pipes are 120 years old and when the new majority of the board took control in February, there were 160 hydrants in the city that did not function. He said that number is now 59 and dropping.

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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