One of the most visited outdoor tourist attractions in the world, Niagara Falls, is known for its breathtaking views, but visitors are now having their breath taken away by something far less awe inspiring.
Located just a few miles from Global Justice Ecology Project’s offices in Buffalo, the Niagara River that leads into Niagara Falls is frequently becoming the dumping outlet for the Niagara Falls sewer system, which has discharged more than a half-billion gallons of raw sewage mixed with storm water into the Lower Niagara River since May 2016, according to Investigative Post. The Niagara River runs north from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario. From the Investigative Post:
The problem gained the attention of Governor Andrew Cuomo after a July 29 discharge turned the Lower Niagara into a black, smelly disruption for tourists on a busy Saturday at Niagara Falls State Park. That incident was blamed on a worker error.
Sewer overflows are well known to the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the Niagara Falls Water Board.
Nonetheless, the DEC said it is investigating two separate discharges that the Niagara Falls Water Board reported Tuesday night. Those overflows totaled 3.5 million gallons.
But from May 2016 to July 2017, the Niagara Falls Water Board reported at least 83 additional sewage discharges, an Investigative Post analysis of state data found. The total estimated volume: 545 million gallons. That’s enough to fill 800 Olympic-sized pools.
Although President Donald Trump boasts about efforts to fix the “crumbling infrastructure” on display here with the discharge of sewage into the Niagara River, he has also proposed cutting funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative by 97 percent as part of overall cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency.
If those restoration efforts (which were prompted by rising levels of flame retardant chemicals in Great Lakes fish) are stopped and problems like what we are seeing at Niagara Falls are not addressed, the future of our Great Lakes appears very grim.
This very public and potentially hazardous display of failed infrastructure and negligence begs the question of what kind of damage is being done to our land and water in less visible places than Niagara Falls, which receives about 12 million tourist visitors each year.
Sewage discharge isn’t the only ecological threat facing the Niagara region. In Niagara Falls, Canada, activists are fighting a proposed $1 billion development known as “Paradise” located on 484 acres, including 95 hectares of provincially significant wetlands, according to the CBC.
“By protecting the savannah area around the provincially significant wetlands, we also protect the wetlands,” said Owen Bjorgan, an activist who is camping in the wetland area now. “It’s all one large ecosystem.”
Species threatened by the development project include the blue spotted salamanders and black gum trees, according to the CBC.