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Home > City Departments > Buffalo Sewer Authority > History

History

Bird Island Before Treatment PlantWhen Buffalo was established as a village, the Niagara River was found to be an economical and convenient means for disposal of the community’s waste matters. With growth of the city, however, volume and concentration of its sewage became so great that oxygen and other purifying agents contained in the river became inadequate.

In the 1890’s, health authorities agreed that pollution of the Niagara River by the City of Buffalo was principally responsible for typhoid cases in territory downstream from Buffalo. Buffalo itself did not wholly escape the effects of this unsanitary disposal of wastes, for each sewer outlet proved a prolific breeding place for carriers of germs of enteric and other intestinal disorders.

Persistent pollution of the Niagara River became the cause of profound resentment across the border in Canada. In 1909 a treaty was entered into by the United States and Canada specifically providing that the waters herein defined as boundary waters flowing across the boundary shall not be polluted on either side to the injury of health or property on the other. The Niagara River was specifically named as among the most important of the boundary waters.

In 1935 the New York Health Department summarily mandated the City of Buffalo to discontinue forthwith the menacing nuisance of pollution of the River waters. However, at that time, during the midst of the depression years, bonded indebtedness of the City was so close to the constitutional limit that funds for adequate correction of the prevailing condition could not be provided. As a result the Buffalo Sewer Authority was brought into existence.

The Buffalo Sewer Authority, a public benefit corporation, was created by an Act of the Legislature in the spring of 1935. To it was delegated responsibility for providing an effectual means of relieving the Niagara River and other tributary streams from pollution by sewage and waste. The Authority was authorized to borrow money, issue bonds and provide for their repayment, fix and collect rates and rentals, and in general assume full-responsibility for carrying out the State Health Department’s mandate.

Bird Islsnd Treatment Plant in 1938 The Authority accepted and discharged its responsibility in full conformity with the intent and spirit of the mandate. It provided a system of intercepting sewers to bring sewage of the City to a then modern (1938) and efficient primary sewage treatment plant where solid matter was removed and incinerated, and all liquid matter chlorinated.

However, with the increasing national awareness of the need to more fully protect our water resources, the State in 1966 directed further improvement of our facilities by providing secondary treatment. With the help of federal and state grants, secondary treatment facilities were constructed and placed in service in 1981.

The Authority recognized the general inadequacy of the storm water capabilities of the existing sewer system of the City and prepared a comprehensive plan for the enlargement and betterment of the storm water overflow system. It has since been engaged in the construction of sewers according to this plan and has eliminated many areas of formerly prevalent basement and surface flooding. The need for complete separation of storm and dry weather flows has been recognized, and for some years now all new construction has been planned, whenever possible, to achieve this result or concept.

While much remains to be done, the Buffalo Sewer Authority is progressing toward having a high level of protection against such undesirable occurrences and at the same time doing its share in the fight against water pollution.

Current Treatment Plant