NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) - Untreated sewage is pouring into the Niagara River near the Rainbow Bridge, not far from the Maid of the Mist.
Since violent storms hit Niagara Falls four days ago, 15 million gallons of raw sewage has been dumped into the lower Niagara River each day. Six different contracting crews have been on the scene for days trying to repair the machines that keep sewage from getting into the river, but the sewage keeps on spilling out.
Niagara Falls Water Board Technical Director Richard Roll said, "This is the most significant flooding event the plant has ever had."
It was the first time in 36 years that the Niagara Falls Wastewater Treatment plant has had to deal with four inches rain in a short time.
"At approximately 10:30 Friday evening the plant experienced an extreme surge in the flow coming in from the collection system, unprecedented amount of surcharge in the sewers, which feed the plant," Roll said.
Water ended up submerging the four huge pumps under 20 feet of water. Now the plant that treats the city's sewage before sending it back into the river can only operate at half capacity, so for the past four days the other half of the city's raw sewage is being dumped directly out into the lower Niagara River under the Rainbow Bridge.
"Where it is discharging is an engineered relief into the system. What is happening now was planned over 30 years ago, if there's ever a disaster at the Wastewater Treatment Plant, this is how the water gets relieved to try to keep peoples' basements dry," Roll explained.
In other words, the equivalent of 23 Olympic-sized swimming pools of raw sewage has been dumped into the lower Niagara each day. But around 3.2 billion gallons of water go over Niagara Falls each day, which is able to dilute the untreated sewage by more than 99 percent. And the place Niagara Falls collects its water to treat for drinking water is far upstream.
Falls Mayor Paul Dyster said, "Matt Driscoll, the head of the Environmental Facilities Corporation and former mayor of Syracuse, is going to be here tomorrow to tour the plant and evaluate what they might be able to do to assist both in this and the longer term capital improvements that need to be done here at the plant."
Officials hope to have the temporary system working by Tuesday night and they may be able to stop all of the raw sewage flow by Thursday night. Fixing those pumps permanently may take a couple weeks or a couple months, which would be the worst case scenario.
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