New York — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will provide technical assistance to the Buffalo Sewer Authority to expand the use of green infrastructure to reduce water pollution and improve Buffalo’s resilience to the impacts of climate change. The EPA will assist Buffalo in assessing paved and unsightly vacant lots, which contribute to stormwater runoff and pollution of local waters. The newly announced assistance augments a $500,000 grant provided to Buffalo in March 2014 to help fund green infrastructure projects in the city. The projects are expected to prevent nearly 5 million gallons of stormwater runoff per year from flowing into Lake Erie.
“The EPA is very excited to assist the Buffalo region in assessing how vacant lots across Buffalo contribute to stormwater pollution,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “The expansion of green infrastructure on vacant lots will promote sustainability and expand projects to improve water quality and withstand the increasing impacts of flooding related to climate change.”
The EPA will assist the Buffalo Sewer Authority in developing a method for assessing vacant lots throughout Buffalo to better understand how much polluted rainwater runs off these areas and how it impacts Buffalo’s combined sewer system. These assessments will evaluate conditions such as site grading, vegetation, impervious surfaces and stormwater retention. This will allow Buffalo to prioritize work to aesthetically improve vacant lots and dramatically reduce polluted run-off by making them part of the overall green infrastructure plan for the city. The plan to revamp vacant lots will help the Buffalo Sewer Authority reduce combined sewer overflows into the Niagara River and will serve as a model for similar communities that manage both large-scale demolitions on vacant lots and combined sewer systems.
The announcement comes just weeks after the EPA approved the Buffalo Sewer Authority’s 20-year plan to reduce the amount of sewage and stormwater run-off that flows into the Niagara River. This plan includes a $93 million investment in green infrastructure as part of an overall $390 million plan to control stormwater runoff.
Green infrastructure is an environmentally friendly technique to manage stormwater. It uses vegetation, soils, and natural processes to manage water and create healthier, more resilient urban environments. This type of infrastructure can replace more traditional “gray” solutions using pipes and concrete. Green infrastructure, which includes green roofs, permeable pavement and other surfaces, rain gardens and restored wetlands, mimics nature by soaking up and storing water.