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Addressing Sewer Overflow With Green Initiatives

Recently, Buffalo’s Mayor Byron Brown announced that the city would be launching a group of green pilot projects to address the problems with sewer overflow being experienced throughout the city.  The success of these programs will determine whether they will eventually be expanded to citywide use.

“The Buffalo Sewer Authority (BSA) will be launching a series of green rain water management pilot projects this fall as the first step of an emerging green sewer solution,” said Mayor Brown.  According to Brown, the BSA has been collaborating with the Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper to monitor how the use of green technologies can reduce the amount of rainwater that flows into the City’s Combined Sewer system.

When the city experiences heavy rainfall, the water is channeled into receiving streams to prevent it from flooding basements and roadways.  Since changes were made to environmental laws in 1972 and 1994, the BSA has been trying to reduce the amount of water overflow with multiple storage and storm water separation projects.  Now, the BSA is negotiating a consent decree with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the United States Environmental Protection Agency in order to revamp the overflow capture program and find a better solution to the problem.  This solution will consist of a combination of system changes and green projects.

The first round of pilot projects will implement a downspout disconnection and rain barrel effort in the First Ward and Hamlin Park areas.  It will also involve a Green water management plan for the Riverbend brownfield area, Green Street plans for the West Side, and as many as six vacant land water management projects for the East Side.  Additionally, the city will be looking into ways it can improve water management in its Green Code effort.  Results from each pilot project will be examined to determine whether they will be extended to a citywide approach.  “There is much speculation and not enough empirical data regarding the efficiency of these green solutions,” said Mayor Brown.  “Intuitively, we know they will help.  Our pilot programs will provide us with hard data.”

Julie Barrett O’Neill of the Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper says that they are thrilled that Mayor Brown is looking into green solutions to the overflow problem.  “This type of solution requires creativity, commitment and a lot of coordination,” she said.  “We were surprised and really impressed with the Buffalo Sewer Authority, Buffalo Department of Public Works, Office of Inspections and Office of Strategic Planning’s collective cooperation and the Mayor’s leadership on this effort.”

Written by Sarah Maurer

Sarah Maurer

I moved to Buffalo to attend Canisius College in 2007 and began writing for Buffalo Rising as a journalism intern in 2010. Working with Newell and meeting numerous entrepreneurs, activists and everyday folks who were working to make their city better made a huge impact on my decision to stay here. After witnessing all the positive development and grassroots initiatives happening in neighborhoods throughout the city, I was inspired to pursue a term of service in AmeriCorps and a career in Buffalo's non-profit sector. I currently work in the housing department at the Lt. Col. Matt Urban Human Services Center of WNY and am excited to be a part of their ongoing efforts to revitalize the Broadway Fillmore neighborhood. I also volunteer as the project coordinator for Artfarms Buffalo. I continue to write for Buffalo Rising because I love having the opportunity to stay connected to those working toward positive changes for the Queen City.

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