News Briefs: Human Error Causes Black Discharge in Niagara River

In this week's water and wastewater news, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation is investigating a discharge of black water into the Niagara River; and Pittsburgh residents may have been misled by health officials
News Briefs: Human Error Causes Black Discharge in Niagara River

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Some photos and videos recently surfaced online showing a large pool of dark black water in the Niagara River near Niagara Falls, New York.

Niagara Falls Water Board Executive Director Rolfe Porter released a statement saying that the substance, which included some solids and carbon residue, was discharged as part of routine maintenance at a wastewater sedimentation basin. “The inky water is the result of a routine, necessary and short-term change in the wastewater treatment process,” stated Porter. “We apologize for causing alarm to residents, tourists and others.”

However, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced shortly after that the city of Niagara Falls may have violated state water quality standards and ordered an investigation into the wastewater plant's discharge.

A statement Aug. 4 from the Niagara Falls Water Board admitted that human error was to blame for the dark water. "It is our preliminary belief that the submersible pump in sedimentation basin No. 5 was allowed to run longer than was intended, which caused a higher concentration of backwash water to enter the chlorine contact tank than occurs under normal conditions."

Sources: WGRZ NewsCBS New York and Buffalo News


County Official Accuses Pennsylvania Health Officials of Downplaying Lead Concerns

The people of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, may have been misled by health officials about lead contamination in their drinking water, according to a report acquired by The Guardian.

The city found lead in its water nearly one year ago after its water utility swapped chemicals it uses to control metal corrosion.

“I’ve been an elected official now for almost 12 years, and I have seen a lot,” Chelsa Wagner told The Guardian. She’s the author of the report and the controller of Allegheny County. “But I think this is the worst thing I’ve seen.”

Wagner wrote the report after finding out her children, ages five and eight, had been drinking water contaminated with high levels of lead.

In a statement addressing Wagner’s report, the health department wrote, “the audit reaches faulty conclusions and is fraught with inaccuracies regarding the data presented,” adding that the review is “misleading and dangerous.”

Source: The Guardian

Corpus Christi Treatment Plant Demonstrates Its DNA Testing Procedure

The O.N. Stevens Water Filtration Plant in Corpus Christi, Texas, recently demonstrated its process for DNA testing water samples for nitrifying bacteria.

“DNA testing is used in crime labs and clinical studies, but we are the first utilities department in the country to use it for drinking water quality,” plant manager Rafael Ramirez told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. “In the lab, we’re able to target the bacteria that could cause bad water quality through nitrification.”

The plant’s laboratory tests around 100 samples every month, and each test takes about five hours. If a specific nitrifying bacteria gene is discovered, technicians deduce whether it’s a mechanical error or an actual organism that could affect the water’s biology.

Source: The Corpus Christi Caller-Times

Denver Utility Asks to Expand Use of Recycled Water

Denver Water of Denver, Colorado, is seeking permission from the state to expand the legal uses of recycled water to include toilets in commercial buildings, cleaning livestock and irrigating crops like cannabis.

The green light on the proposal could mean more widespread use of Denver’s 70-mile network of pipes that already carry treated recycled water.

Denver Water’s plan would increase the 2.6 billion gallons of recycled water it provides to 5.6 billion gallons by 2020. It could reduce the city’s need for water out of the overused Colorado River, too.

In the cannabis sector, growers are giving plants 146 million gallons of drinking water per year, which is significantly more than the 98 million gallons the state’s breweries are using.

“This is where the world is going,” Denver Water Chief Executive Jim Lochhead told The Denver Post. “Utilities are exploring this concept of ‘one water,’ the right water quality for the right purpose, and making the most efficient use of water.”

Source: The Denver Post


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