This is a combined sewer overflow, Buffalo

News and analysis by Dan Telvock, Investigative Post's environmental reporter

H2 Oh No! from the Center for Urban Pedagogy on Vimeo.

I’ve blogged on GreenPost about a dozen times on combined sewer overflows here in Buffalo, but what has been more challenging is coming up with a way to visually show you the problem.

Thanks to the Center for Urban Pedagogy, I can now feel at ease because they’ve done it for me with this short video showing how a combined sewer system works.

The Buffalo Sewer Authority has 52 permitted combined sewer overflow points into various local waterways.

According to the Alliance for the Great Lakes, the city’s combined sewer system released 1.75 billion gallons of untreated storm water and sewage into various local waterways in 2011. In March 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency estimated the amount closer to 4 billion gallons each year.

As I’ve reported before, the BSA is under a consent order with the EPA to file a long-term control plan for these overflows. The BSA has complied, but the EPA still hasn’t decided if it will grant the BSA a waiver to implement its plan over 19 years instead of 15 years.

The BSA estimates that 97 percent of wet-weather overflows will be prevented when all of the work listed in the long-term plan is completed.

Some of the work would include:

• Green infrastructure projects such as rain gardens, pervious pavements on public streets and parking lots, downspout disconnections and rain barrels, and using 1,620 acres of publicly owned vacant lots to store and infiltrate storm water runoff, all costing $96.2 million (completed over 19 years).

• A north interceptor relief sewer system to allow additional flows to Bird Island WWTP costing $36 million (completed in 2023).

• New capacity totaling 19.1 million gallons costing $71.3 million (completed over 19 years).