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Scajaquada Creek Has Been Polluted With Raw Sewage & Garbage From Outdated City of Buffalo Sewer System & Surrounding Towns For Years; City Received $1.8 Million In 2015 Through Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) Fed Program To Upgrade Sewer System & Mitigate Overflows Into The Creek

CWSRF Funding Is Vital To Keeping Buffalo Sewer Improvements On Track, But Proposed $414 Million Cut To CWSRF Could Derail Progress on Project; An Additional $90M Is Needed In The Scajaquada Sewer District to Complete Needed Sewer Improvements and Prevent Further Pollution  

Schumer: Critical Fed Funds Needed To Keep Raw Sewage Out Of Scajaquada Creek Must Be Restored; Proposal To Cut Funding Must Be Flushed Away 

Standing at the Scajaquada Creek in Buffalo, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today launched a major push to protect a critical federal funding stream that is currently being used by the City of Buffalo and surrounding communities to rid Scajaquada Creek of pollution. Schumer said the creek has been polluted with raw sewage and garbage for years as a result of outdated area sewer systems. For the last four years, Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper in partnership with the Forest Lawn Cemetery and the US Army Corps of Engineers, conducted preliminary field studies and prepared conceptual restoration designs for Scajaquada Creek. This work enabled the City of Buffalo to apply for and secure an initial $1.8 million in federal Green Infrastructure Grant funds though the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) program as part of the Scajaquada Creek Restoration Project, which will upgrade the sewer system and mitigate overflows that have occurred in the Forest Lawn area of the creek. Schumer said an additional $90 million is needed in just the Scajaquada Creek district, and $400 million will be needed for the entire sewer improvement project to be completed over the next 18 years. That is why Schumer said a proposed $414 million cut to the CWSRF program would be devastating for water infrastructure improvements‎ and the entire Buffalo community. Therefore, Schumer urged federal appropriators to reject this cut – which could derail the Scajaquada Creek progress for years – and instead restore full funding to this critical federal program.

“The Scajaquada Creek Watershed area is home to more than 90,000 people, in five Western New York communities, but this waterway‎ has been plagued by pollution for years. The City of Buffalo and surrounding communities have been keeping up with their end of the bargain by moving forward with sewage infrastructure improvements and environmental mitigation, but significant federal funds are needed to make this restoration project a reality. We need to make sure the federal government is keeping up its end of the deal when it comes to funding these top-priority local projects,” said Schumer. “That’s why I am urging federal appropriators to reject these devastating cuts and maintain the highest level of funding for New York’s federally funded water-sewer repair program. Plain and simple: any plan to slash Buffalo’s ability to rid the Scajaquada Creek of raw sewage should be flushed away.”

Schumer explained that the Scajaquada Creek has faced ongoing pollution issues for years. In 2014, the Investigative Post reported that millions of gallons of raw sewage from the City of Buffalo, Depew, and Cheektowaga have been dumped in the creek, leading to serious environmental issues. Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper took up the cause, successfully urging the federal government to add Scajaquada Creek to the federally designated Niagara River Area of Concern, making the creek eligible for federal funding. Schumer said this problem is rooted in the fact that the area’s antiquated sewage systems are often overwhelmed by influxes of water during rainstorms and snow melts. These systems, unable to handle the water dump untreated sewage and runoff into nearby creeks and streams, like Scajaquada Creek, rather than backup into homes and businesses. Scajaquada Creek runs from Lancaster to the City of Buffalo, including being buried for up to three miles as much as 30 feet underground through Buffalo’s East Side in a manner similar to a modern sewage system. Along the way, the waterway collects untreated sewage and storm water that overflows from the City and Towns' outdated combined sewer systems. Schumer said that, in 2014, locals reported this sewage had leeched into the Scajaquada over time and ultimately culminated in five feet of sludge buildup in the creek. This led to‎ the death of birds and fish along the water’s edge, which caused a public outcry.

In March 2014, the Buffalo Sewer Authority’s Long Term Control Plan to fix its outdated sewer system was approved by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). As a result, over the course of the next 18 years, the City of Buffalo will undergo a series of sewer infrastructure improvements that will ultimately keep sewage and garbage out of local creeks and streams, particularly the Scajaquada. As a part of the plan, formulated in conjunction with Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, an initial $1.8 million in federal funds was awarded through the CWSRF’s Green Infrastructure Grant program. However, Schumer said an estimated additional $90 million is still needed – in just the Scajaquada Creek area alone – to rid the creek and surrounding area of this sewage and pollution over the next 18 years. In total, it is estimated that $400 million is needed to complete the entire Long Term Control Plan to update the City of Buffalo's sewer system.

However, Schumer said the Administration recently proposed a $414 million cut to the CWSRF in the President’s proposed 2017 budget. This could mean significantly less funding for local water infrastructure projects across the country, like the Scajaquada Creek Restoration Project. Schumer said this devastating cut would constitute a 30 percent reduction in CWSRF dollars, and could stall the great progress that has already been made by the City of Buffalo and surrounding municipalities in updating their sewer systems while continuing to rid the Scajaquada Creek of pollution. According to the Buffalo Mayor’s office, the City alone is forecasting a need of over $400 million in investments in green infrastructure upgrades, wastewater conveyance, and treatment facilities improvements, combined with sewer overflow correction and storm water management.

As a result, Schumer said this proposed cut could be detrimental to this project. Schumer said that while the City of Buffalo is working with both the state and federal governments to improve and modernize its sewage system, a significant investment from the federal CWSRF program is going to be needed to advance this project that reduces sewer overflows. The Scajaquada Creek empties into the Niagara River, and according to Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, more than 94,000 people live within the Scajaquada Creek Watershed in five communities, including the City of Buffalo, Town of Cheektowaga, Town of Lancaster, Village of Lancaster and Village of Depew. Schumer said this proves just how critical it is that this project continues on schedule and is not shortchanged at a time when funding to stem the tide of this pollution is needed most.

Therefore, Schumer today urged Senate appropriators to provide significant and robust funding to the CWSRF in 2017. Schumer said that, given the importance of water and wastewater infrastructure to the health and well-being of local residents, as well as to the regional economy, it is critical that the federal government continues to be a reliable partner in ensuring that clean water needs are met ‎

Schumer was joined by O.J. McFoy, General Manager of the Buffalo Sewer Authority and Jill Jedlicka, Executive Director, Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper.

“Improving water and wastewater infrastructure throughout the Great Lakes is one of our generation's biggest challenges as many communities are in desperate need of support from the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund,” saidBuffalo Niagara Riverkeeper executive director Jill Jedlicka. “Funding the CWSRLF will also protect public health and drinking water, minimize beach closures, and enhance local economies. We thank Senator Schumer for his leadership in Washington on this issue and for his unwavering commitment to our region's waterways.”

A copy of the letter to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies appears below:

Dear Chairman Murkowski and Ranking Member Udall:

As the Senate Appropriations Committee develops spending priorities for Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17), we strongly urge you to provide significant and robust funding for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) and the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF).  We appreciate your continued support for these vital initiatives and urge you to provide no less than the FY 2016 funding level. It is critically important to provide the most robust possible federal investment in our nation's safe and clean water infrastructure.  Each dollar invested helps to create jobs, repair crumbling water and wastewater infrastructure, and protect public health and environmental quality in our States.

Additionally, the American Water Works Association (AWWA) estimates that there are 240,000 drinking water main breaks every year. AWWA estimates the cost to replace our nation's crumbling drinking water infrastructure will be more than $1 trillion over the next 25 years.  Maintaining a state of good repair of our nation's drinking water infrastructure is critical to protecting public health by ensuring reliable delivery of safe drinking water to millions of Americans.   The American Society of Civil Engineers' 2014 infrastructure report card also provides ample evidence of the need for a continued and robust federal commitment to water and wastewater infrastructure.  The Society gave the nation's drinking water a "D" and wastewater infrastructure a "D-".  Every day, communities face significant losses and damage from broken water and sewer mains, sewage overflows, and other problems due to infrastructure that is reaching the end of its useful life cycle.    

The SRFs help address these conditions by investing in short- and long-term improvements to water and wastewater infrastructure in states and communities across the nation, providing significant environmental, economic, and public health benefits.

Given the importance of water and wastewater infrastructure to the health and well-being of the American people as well as to the national economy, it is critical that the federal government continue to be a reliable partner in meeting the nation's clean water and safe drinking water needs.  We therefore urge your continued robust investment in the Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Funds.


Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator