By Justin Sondel
Niagara Gazette — The Niagara Falls Wastewater Treatment Plant is back on track after equipment was damaged in a severe storm last week.
City officials announced Friday that five temporary bypass pumps are up and running, meaning that the water authority can now treat up to 30 million gallons of wastewater each day.
Nearly all of the 25 million to 30 million gallons of wastewater that the Niagara Falls Water Board treats every day was flowing into the Niagara River after the storm but that amount has been reduced daily as water board crews and outside contractors have brought equipment back online and installed the temporary pumps, Paul Drof, the water board's executive director, said.
"We should be able to handle our average dry weather flow," Drof said in a phone interview Friday afternoon.
Work crews were waiting for parts to arrive Friday that will enable them to repair one of the four main pumps at the water board's Buffalo Avenue facility.
Drof said the parts were expected to arrive Friday afternoon and crews should be able to install the motor and drive in about eight hours time.
"We hope to get (the pump) going as soon as reasonably possible," Drof said.
The repairs to the water board equipment are estimated to be at least $2 million. State and federal officials toured the plant earlier this week to assess the damage. It remains unclear who will pay for repairs, though it is likely that the water board will be given financial assistance from either the state or the federal government.
Drof said his employees and workers from the contracting companies - Ferguson Electric, O'Connell Electric, Volland Electric, J. W. Danforth Co. and National Vacuum Corp. - have been working without rest to restore the equipment to working order.
"Our own employees along with our outside contractors have been working as much as humanly possible," Drof said. "They restored service in a remarkable amount of time."
Drof said now that the water board is treating most, if not all, of the wastewater that it receives crews will work towards getting all of the equipment back on line.
"Work is continuing as we speak," Drof said. "Our goal is to get back to some normalcy at this point."
Mayor Paul Dyster said the city has been collecting data on storm damage and mapping it as people report issues related to the storm.
"We're mapping the damage reports as they come in to try to get an idea of which areas saw the most problems," Dyster said.
Dyster said that while small steps have been made in preventing water run off around the city, his administration needs to look for more solutions.
"One of the things we're trying to do is 'green' our city to reduce water run off during weather events," Dyster said.
Though, Dyster said, small-scale solutions like water barrels and "green streets" designed to prevent water from entering the storm sewer system can only help so much. The city needs to continue exploring long-term solutions - like separating the storm and sewage systems - especially as severe weather events become more commonplace.
"The whole question of how you structure your city to deal with these water events is coming to the fore," Dyster said.Contact reporter Justin Sondel at 282-2311, ext. 2257