Water board fined $50K for black discharge at Niagara Falls

By , on September 15, 2017


Local water officials blamed outdated equipment and miscommunication between employees for the incident. (Photo by Saffron Blaze - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0)
FILE: Local water officials blamed outdated equipment and miscommunication between employees for the incident. (Photo by Saffron Blaze – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0)

ALBANY, N.Y.— New York state will fine the Niagara Falls Water Board $50,000 for discharging black and smelly water near the falls during a busy tourist weekend, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday.

The agency will be required to make changes at its aging wastewater plant and obtain state approval before any future discharges.

The July 29 discharge caused discolored water to empty into the Niagara River near the American side of the falls on a summer weekend critical to the local tourism industry. The foul-smelling discharge enveloped the dock for the popular Maid of the Mist tour boats.

“We have to make sure it never ever happens again,” the Democratic governor said during a visit Thursday to Niagara Falls. He said the state determined the discharge was the result of “basic breaches of protocol” at the plant.

The Water Board issued a statement Thursday saying that while it had not yet seen the details of the administration’s requirements, it would work with state officials to prevent problems going forward.

“We have always been and remain committed to doing everything possible with the technology in place to safeguard the natural beauty of the Niagara River and to comply with and exceed wherever possible all environmental rules, standards and permits,” the board said.

Local water officials blamed outdated equipment and miscommunication between employees for the incident. The board also has been cited for an unrelated discharge in August.

Cuomo dismissed claims the discharge was caused by technological issues, likening the plant to an old car that is involved in a crash.

“It’s not the age of the car you drove it into a tree,” he said. “That’s the problem. You drove the car into a tree. Let’s discuss that first.”