Just what an already underperforming tourist city needs in its peak season: the putrid scent of sewage filtering through the nostrils of visitors. Breakfast, anyone?
That’s what happened earlier this month in Niagara Falls, when the pH of sewage arriving at the wastewater treatment plant decreased. That required a change in the amount of chlorine used to deal with the odor, but why it took the better part of three days to do so remains a mystery most foul.
It’s intolerable in any city, let alone one that relies on tourism for much of its economy. Would you come back? It’s already hard enough to get tourists to camp on this side of the Niagara River without setting off giant stink bombs that will send them scurrying for safety in Canada. Surely professionals in a city that relies on visitors can respond more effectively to so mortal a challenge, silent though it was.
The Niagara Falls Water Board operates the treatment plant at 1200 Buffalo Ave. and, to be fair, this kind of failure appears to be rare. One resident, who said the stench was worse than when she had a backup into her own basement, said she never smells sewage at her home close to downtown and near the Niagara River.
That says something good about the operations of the plant, but it is also clear that some better system is needed to respond quickly to a problem that could disrupt the city’s fragile economy. Who can doubt that every visitor assaulted by the city’s gas emission is telling friends and relatives about the noxious experience? Will that horror story make them more or less likely to visit Niagara Falls, themselves?
Lots of good things are happening in the Falls right now, including the re-engineering of the misbegotten Robert Moses Parkway south of the city and the important changes planned for the same roadway leading north out of downtown. New hotels are open and more are in the works. The reimagining of the Rainbow Mall is in full swing, putting a moribund building back into productive use.
It’s important for Niagara Falls and all of Western New York that the city keep up the momentum that has taken hold. And, in case it isn’t obvious, the scent of sewage tickling the noses of residents and visitors, alike, does not help.