What should have been clear from the Alt Press article entitled, “Buffalo Sewer Authority: Burnin’ Down The Shithouse,” is that these latest troubles involving non-functioning “digesters” are part of a long-running pattern of institutional incompetence fostered by political patronage.

During the Masiello Administration’s term in office, millions of dollars have been invested in the Squaw Island headquarters of the BSA (which is known officially as the Bird Island Treatment Plant). The current, dire condition of the facility lends credence to allegations of malfeasance reported to Alt by sources on condition of anonymity over the past eight years .

What is perhaps most troubling is the fact that all of the early warning signs of gross mismanagement and/or incompetence were clear at least seven years ago after two serious and preventable accidents were made public.

The News article quotes Daniel R. David, regional engineer for environmental quality for the state DEC, as saying "The city and the sewer authority are probably not in the best financial straits for a number of years and they've probably let maintenance go at times."

Of course, it is the Department of Environmental Conservation’s responsibility to make sure that these probable lapses in maintenance do not result in a threat to the public health. Clearly the DEC like the Mayor’s office and the EPA failed to make sure that political patronage appointees like Mr. Hazzan (who, by the way, had no engineering qualifications for his position) let things get to the point that they are at now.

As a result of these failures, an entire section of the City is facing a summer of stench that would make a garbage strike in New York seem like a bed of roses by comparison.

As we said in our April 16th issue: “The Buffalo Sewer Authority is a pretty good metaphor for Buffalo politics, in general – up to its eyeballs in feces and sinking fast. A political patronage haven from way back, the Buffalo Sewer Authority is headquartered on Squaw Island – a fitting location for a public authority with a license from New York State to borrow and spend to its heart's content.”

Buffalo Sewer Authority: An Abridged Timeline

The following articles from Alt Press are provided to give readers some background on the history of the BSA under the Masiello Administration:

December 23, 1996 Untreated waste water released into the Niagara River between 6:50 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. Approximately 50 million to 75 million gallons of partially treated and untreated waste water was released into the Niagara River from the Bird Island sewage treatment plant. The reason for the alleged incident was that the BSA failed to order chlorine, resulting in the authority temporarily running out of chlorine.

February 24, 1997 Another major spill was discovered; more than three to four million gallons of untreated raw and industrial sewage was pumped into the canal and into the Buffalo River from the Kelly substation. The official cause of the accident as reported in The Buffalo News was that the electrical pumps at Kelly Station shorted out and a bleeder line broke under the pressure.

According to information Alt received from a source within the BSA is that the real cause of the accident was a $25 bleeder valve and leaking sump discharge line. A request for replacement or repair of the bleeder valve and line was placed on January 24, 1997, a month before the accident.

The Buffalo Sewer Authority Maintenance Department reported a break-in to the Buffalo Police. They reported a computer as having been stolen. The stolen computer was not a new computer but was instead an older model. Information contained in the missing computer includes all maintenance department work orders.

June 4, 1997 After the February accident sources told Alt thatlogbooks (composition notebooks) at the South Buffalo, Hamburg Street, and X station were reported to have been removed and were replaced with new ones.

In April of '97 the BSA Maintenance Department reported a break-in to the Buffalo Police. They reported a computer as having been stolen. The stolen computer was not a new computer but was instead an older model. Information contained in the missing computer includes all maintenance department work orders.

September 8, 1998 As of this date, our sources tell us that the sludge pump, settled waste pumps, aeration and final effluent pumps, sludge de-watering pumps, digester pumps are all labeled as OOS (out of service).

The incinerators are not fulfilling their design specifications and there is some question as to the effectiveness of the scrubbers. Scrubbers are used to remove large amounts of pollutants from the burned waste before it is released into the air.

The South Buffalo pumping station is unmanned on weekends and has serious maintenance problems. The autom atic switch to the power transfer lines is labeled OOS, and one of the pumps can only be operated manually. Sump pumps located in the (Megastructure sub-basement) of the Administration building are not functional. The (west) hypochlorite system, also located in the administration building is labeled OOS. Hypochlorite is used to treat effluents before they are discharged into the river.

June 21, 1999 The Squaw Island digesters, those concrete tanks with brick facades, are now bubbling over like witches’ cauldrons on a daily basis. The contents of these tanks are toxic and could be a source for E-coli bacterium, among other environmental contaminants. Sources on the island confirmed that this waste is being treated with sodium hypochloride, and ever increasing amounts are being ordered to treat the contents bubbling out of the digesters.

It is further alleged that “Tough Tony Hazzan” has been the recipient of free golf lessons, golf trips, tickets for sporting events, and “kick backs.” Information from some of the employees of the BSA related that Hazzan, along with Jim Naples (Sewer Authority Board Member), in company with Vito and Michael Masiello (the mayor’s brothers) were treated to several outings at Saratoga Racetrack and the Sagamore Resort free of charge. All of this is courtesy of a vendor and two representatives of the company having extensive business dealings with the BSA. Our informants have indicated that other board members have been included in some of the largess bestowed by the vendors.

Mr. Hazzan is alleged to have used a carpenter hired on a temporary basis to perform work on his home, using materials purchased with Sewer Authority funds. It is further alleged that a local exterminating firm took care of the pigeon problems at Hazzan’s home free of charge. It has been further alleged that special employees receive compensation for time not worked and that intimidation and threats are used routinely to force compliance.

July 19,1999 Sources tell Alt of a breakdown of the scum removal apparatus at the BSA They said that the scum was vacuumed up with a super-sucker apparatus and that it was then de-watered and put into a waste hauler trailer; C.I.D. No. 20-402. Alt found trailer C.I.D. No. 20-402 on July 7, at 6 p.m. at an open lot owned by the BSA on Hamburg St. It appeared to be filled with toxic material. The material appeared to have a white foaminess, indicating a mixture of oil and water. It also had a noxious, sweet chemical odor. The gate was left open, and children were playing nearby. Alt took photos of the site. The aforementioned trailer was leaking water and oils onto the ground. The contents were consistent with the allegations. After Alt held a press conference at the site attended by Channels 4 and 7, Hazzan denied the allegations, but could not explain the contents of the dumpster. The dumpster then disappeared overnight.

February 20, 2000 According to multiple sources, Malcolm Pirnie (the consulting engineer contracted to work with the BSA) provided Hazzan with a complimentary package of free hotel accommodations, air fare, and tickets to Super Bowl XXXIV in Atlanta, Georgia.

By John McMahon

June 24, 2004

A June 15th article by Michael Beebe in The Buffalo News entitled, “A Smelly Nuisance,” reported on serious maintenance issues at the Buffalo Sewer Authority which were first reported by The Buffalo Alternative Press in the April 16th issue.

The complete breakdown of sewage “digester” vats that use bacteria to breakdown sewage sludge on Squaw Island has resulted in frequent and intense smells of sewage wafting over much of Black Rock on the City’s west side.

In terms of disclosure, better late than never is the usual rule. However, in the case of the recent News article, it’s easy for the reader to take away the impression that the recent problems at the BSA are unusual, temporary and directly attributable to the City’s recent financial troubles.