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Riverkeeper Proposes Green Infrastructure Solutions

Last Friday, Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper held a technical briefing and review of their Green Infrastructure Solutions Plan to address sewer overflow issues in the city.

The International Joint Commission that oversees the Great Lakes has identified the Niagara and Buffalo rivers as “Areas of Concern,” due to the pollution that has contaminated these waterways from sewage and storm water outfalls.  This raw sewage that poisons the rivers after the sewers overflow poses a severe health risk to those who come into contact with them and also endangers the fish that inhabit them by reducing the level of available oxygen in the water.  This polluted water introduces chemicals into the waterways and also contributes to the risk of flooding and bank erosion. In order to prevent these issues, the sewer overflow has to be contained.

The Riverkeeper’s Green Infrastructure Solutions Plan aims to eliminate storm water flow into the urban sewer system, which in turn would keep this contaminated water from overflowing into Scajaquada Creek.  By utilizing green infrastructure, the system would mimic natural stormwater management and stop the water from entering the sewer system entirely.  According to the full report, this modified infrastructure could reduce stormwater flow to the combined sewer system by at least 45 percent and would eliminate combined sewer overflows for 95 percent of all rain events.   After completing a feasibility and cost study of the planned sewer separation at Sewer Patrol Point 240, they determined that this proposed green infrastructure would be able to capture 100 percent of that site’s stormwater flow.

The plan recommends several green components, including a green streets program, downspout disconnection, green public facilities and campuses, commercial and industrial site greening, green open space and public parks, vacant lot management, green roofs and green development ordinances.

The Buffalo Sewer Authority and partners are currently conducting a study of how effective the downspout disconnection technique will be at reducing water pollution in the First Ward.  Typically, downspouts take water from our roofs and channel it directly into the sewer system, which leads to overflow on days with heavy rainfall.  By redirecting the water coming from the roofs onto lawns instead of the sewer system, the flow level in the sewer should be reduced.  Some houses participating in the study will also be given rain barrels, which can collect up to 60 gallons of rainwater to be used for outdoor watering at a later time. The Sewer Authority is using flow meters in the sewers to detect how much flow will be reduced by disconnecting the downspouts.

The Riverkeeper’s plan will also improve options for bikers and walkers,
improve the appearance of neighborhoods, and provide tree calming
benefits. During interviews with several large public agencies and
institutions, they found that there was a great deal of interest in
incorporating green infrastructure.  They collaborated on a list of
potential projects with these agencies and found that many of the
changes needed would be cost neutral design specification changes.

To learn more about the proposed Green Infrastructure Solutions plan, or to see the full report in depth, visit the Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper website.

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