Partners John Kolaga & Sean Costello counsel the NF Water Board

In a victory for residents of and visitors to Niagara Falls, New York State has announced plans to contribute $20.5 Million to fund the first phase of the improvements to the Niagara Falls Wastewater Treatment Plant.  Rupp Baase partners John Kolaga, a veteran environmental lawyer, and Sean Costello, who focuses his practice on municipal law, continue to counsel the Niagara Falls Water Board regarding issues that took the public stage after a July 29 “dark water” incident near the Maid of the Mist dock.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday that he will propose the state legislature invest $20 million to overhaul Niagara Falls’ storm- and wastewater systems.

Cuomo called the funding proposal “phase one” of a strategy to protect local water quality, part of a series of proposals he will make in his January State of the State address.

The money, if allocated, will also be devoted to updates at the Michael C. O’Laughlin Wastewater Treatment Plant on Buffalo Avenue, the state of which was originally labelled a contributing factor to the infamous July release into the lower Niagara River.

The decision continues Cuomo’s watch on Cataract City infrastructure, which has remained focused since the black water discharge incident made international headlines over the summer.

Cuomo’s proposal also offers $500,000 to expedite two engineering studies of the plant’s discharge and treatment systems, a requirement of a state Department of Environmental Conservation’s consent order handed down to the Falls water Niagara Falls Water Board earlier this year.

The consent order, an agreement that certain corrective actions will be taken and monitored by the DEC, was “authorized” by the Water Board on Tuesday, the release said.

The order demands the public authority enhance staff training, update its operational manual and improve its treatment processes to avoid sludge build up in its systems, among others. The funded engineering studies, a nine-month and 15-month review, will sketch the blueprint for the initial investment, Cuomo’s administration has said.

“The impacts of our aging water infrastructure became intolerable this year after multiple discharges discolored the pristine waters at Niagara Falls,” Cuomo said in a prepared statement. “We have a responsibility to safeguard our natural resources and this administration will do everything in our power to protect the integrity of our water. This funding will help expedite these much-needed fixes, and help the Niagara Falls Water Board modernize its wastewater system.”

$20M sought by Cuomo for Falls’ wastewater system