DPW director addresses plant’s discharge following heavy rain event

OBSERVER Photo by Jimmy McCarthy Lake Erie near Wright Park in the city of Dunkirk on Monday afternoon. On Sunday morning, the wastewater treatment plant had an overflow event that released close to 1 million gallons of wastewater, which DPW Director Randy Woodbury said was treated before entering the lake. The beach near Wright Park wasn’t impacted.

A heavy rain event Sunday morning prompted action from the city’s wastewater treatment plant.

Two inches of rain came down within a period of an hour in the city. As a result, it drew the plant to pump close to 1 million gallons of stormwater into Lake Erie. The pumping lasted 11 minutes.

Despite reports and rumors, no raw sewage was discharged from the wastewater plant, and Wright Park wasn’t impacted by the event, city Public Works Director Randy Woodbury told council members at Monday’s Public Works Committee meeting.

While half of the rainwater from the event soaked into the ground, the other half ran into the lake. And some of it entered the plant.

“Our wastewater plant, some of the 150 million gallons headed to the lake got into our sanitary sewer and went to the plant,” he said. “Usually we can treat a maximum of 20 million gallons a day if we get that water. We usually discharge only three million gallons a day.”

A notification went out via the NY Alert system, which detailed the event. Woodbury said the alert may have created some confusion, specifically where the discharge was heading.

“Our discharge is one-half-mile out past Battery Point into a submerged channel that flows very rapidly to the east,” he said. “The water could not go to Wright Park.”

Woodbury noted that the rainwater treated through the plant is likely safer than discharge that came from creeks after the rain event. The city is required to remove 95 percent of all pollution that comes into the plant before it’s discharged.