Wastewater Spill Darkens Water Near Niagara Falls

Worker error causes discharge that changed the color, odor of Niagara River

Wastewater spills in Niagara Falls

A wastewater discharge blackened the water near the base of Niagara Falls. According to a Niagara Falls Water Board statement, a worker who had been monitoring the discharge was called away to another section of the wastewater treatment plant to help with another job, causing the spill.

The statement came after a Friday meeting between the board and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. The department said earlier in the week that the discharge violated state water quality standards by changing the color and odor of the Niagara River.

A spokesperson for Environment and Climate Change Canada said there are no international targets for wastewater treatment plants under the 2012 Canada-U.S. Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, other than phosphorous discharge. Wastewater is otherwise governed by the province and state, respectively.

The water board reiterated in its statement that the discharge was within permitted limits. Nevertheless, several U.S. lawmakers called last week for the resignation of the board that runs the wastewater treatment plant on the American side of the river. 

The material discharged is listed in the report as "raw sewage" and a previous statement by the Niagara Falls Water Board clarified that the "inky water" was the result of residue from black carbon filters used to clean the water.

As of Oct. 6, there were no immediate reports of fish kills, or changes in the quality of drinking water for towns downstream of the river, including Lewiston, N.Y., and Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada.

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