NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) - After learning that due to storm damage, Niagara Falls is pumping 15 million gallons of raw sewage into the Niagara River each day, reporter George Richert set out to investigate to determine the potential health hazard.
But the results are exactly the opposite of what you might expect. A water sample pulled downstream from where the raw sewage is dumped is 10 times cleaner than a sample taken upstream from the dumping site.
A private water testing lab called Biotrax had the answers for News 4 in 24 hours. They test for fecal coliform, a good indicator of how much human or animal waste is in the water. On Tuesday we pulled two samples, one from the upper Niagara, one from the lower, and the results?
Lab director Ed Lukaszek said, "My consensus is, the water is still within the EPA limits."
It turns out that that the sample News 4 gathered from Lewiston landing a couple miles downstream from where at least 15 million gallons of untreated sewage continues to pour out under the Rainbow Bridge, had only one colony of fecal coliform - probably cleaner than much of Lake Erie.
"Mother Nature is really taking care of itself by cleaning itself as it's coming down. It's going to eventually dump into Lake Ontario, and with only one colony, I think we're doing really good," Lukaszek said.
But the other sample from right near the North Grand Island Bridge just upstream from where Niagara Falls takes in water for drinking had 10 times more fecal coliform than Lewiston, but still well within what's allowable to make into drinking water at the nearby O'Loughlin Water Plant. That site is actually closer to where Tonawanda's and Buffalo's storm water drains into the river, and sometimes sewage mixes into those drains during heavy rain.
"What they do is they actually clean that water by chlorinating it, it takes all your primary contaminants out," Lukaszek explained.
In general, fast-flowing water cleans itself faster than pond water, and if you ever want to test your pond water or well water, Biotrax will do so for $30.
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