Niagara Falls Tourism Advisory Board Chairman Pat Proctor is mad as hell, and he’s not going to take it anymore.
Five times since July, tourists in Niagara Falls have been treated to the spectacle of foul smelling black sludge – untreated sewage – pouring into the river below the Falls. Mr. Proctor said that’s threatening local businesses. Mr. Proctor, who also works as director of marketing at Rainbow Air, the helicopter tour company that gives visitors a bird’s eye view of the mighty Cataracts, made his case public last week.
“With the black water, it’s been a black eye on our area,” he said. “You get a little bit of rain and all of the sudden you’ve got black water and it’s visible to the eye, which isn’t fair to those that have to explain that,” he said. “And there’s a smell that goes with it that God only knows.”
Fifteen years ago, Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster – then a City Council member – spearheaded the drive to divorce water and sewer services from city government. The results have been disastrous.
“If it continues to happen, you’re going to see other businesses in our area suffer from it,” Mr. Proctor said. “They’re going to start wondering the hypothetical question, is the water safe enough to drink? Is it safe to be on the boat? Is it safe to do the Cave of the Winds? Is it safe to be in the area with that smell?”
The Water Board then-Councilman Dyster helped to create says it will cost millions of dollars to make the necessary upgrades to the water treatment system to prevent future problems. But Gov. Andrew Cuomo has openly laughed at the prospect of sending Niagara Falls any more state aid (See related stories).
Unsurprisingly, Mr. Dyster himself has remained largely silent about the fiasco.
“There have been no answers. There’s been no accountability,” Mr. Proctor said. “Why hasn’t anybody stepped up to the plate? Is there anything we can do on our end? We’d be more than willing to help. Letters to the governor, letters to powers that be. Assemblymen, Senators, whoever. We need to fix this problem.”
There were no such problems prior to the creation of the Water Board. But then-Councilman Dyster already had his eye on the mayor’s office and reasoned that Council members not voting on water and sewer rate hikes would protect them – and him, specifically – from the wrath of the taxpayers here.
To a degree he was correct. After all, he’s been elected to the city’s highest office three times in a row.
But with millions of gallons of raw sewage plunging over the falls, the cutoff of millions of dollars in casino cash by the Seneca Nation of Indians and the loss of support by his old buddy, Andrew Cuomo, it looks as though the house of cards he’s built over the past nine years may be tumbling down fast.