Riverkeeper hosts fundraiser on Sept. 1st for egregiously ‘impaired’ Scajaquada Creek

By Frank Parlato;

Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper will host a fund raising event, September 1st, to aid efforts to clean up Scajaquada Creek. The event will be from 6 p.m.– 9 p.m. at Marcy Casino, in Delaware Park. Scajaquada Creek runs underneath the building.

“The creek has endured more than 100 years of abuse,” said Jill Jedlicka, executive director of Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper. “Yet (the creek) still clings to life and is ready for restoration.”

More than 200 guests are expected to attend the event.

Amid views of Hoyt Lake before and through dusk and into early evening, the event will feature hors d’oeuvres provided by Magnolia Events, beverages donated by Labatt USA, a raffle of a Hornbeck canoe and local artwork and music by High Horse Band.

The 15-mile Scajaquada Creek originates in Lancaster and flows west through Depew, Cheektowaga and Buffalo, where it empties into the Black Rock Canal and the Niagara River.

It has been a go-to creek as a conveyance for carrying local pollution to the Niagara River and suffered developer driven modifications including the eradication of most of its original wetlands.

For decades, whenever rain or melting snow overburdens the local sewer systems of Cheektowaga, Depew, and Buffalo, overflows of raw sewage mixed with untreated storm water – about 500 million gallons annually – flow into the creek.

This has created a bottom sludge of human feces and other contaminants which foul the creek well beyond safe levels for recreation.

A 3.7-mile stretch, which runs through Cheektowaga and the east side of Buffalo was covered in the 1920s because of the smell of sewage and industrial pollution.

Scajaquada Creek resurfaces at historic Forest Lawn Cemetery where the odor of the creek is sometimes mistaken for decomposing corpses.

Scajaquada Creek is designated as impaired by the NYS DEC due to urban runoff, excessive phosphorus from sewer overflows, pathogens, floatables, and a shortage of dissolved oxygen that must be present in water in order for microorganisms to decompose organic matter in the water.

The Buffalo portion of the creek is the most polluted of the 4,086 miles of freshwater rivers and streams that run through the 2,280 square miles of land area designated as within the Niagara Watershed.

There has been progress toward funding a small percentage of the amount needed to clean up the creek and reduce the amount of raw sewage which pours into the creek annually.

Floatables are part of the reason for the creek’s ‘impaired’ status.

Recently Cheektowaga received a $5 million grant and a$15 million interest-free state loan to attempt to reduce their sewage overflows into the creek.

The Buffalo Sewer Authority is undertaking a nearly $2 million project to dredge some of the bottom sludge of human waste in the creek near Delaware Avenue, clean the creek within the Forest Lawn cemetery, and create a three-acre wetland area.

The latter plan was initiated by a joint effort of Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, Forest Lawn Heritage Foundation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

An opportunity to help, contribute and participate in the ongoing, expensive and daunting challenge of converting Scajaquada Creek from its present status as a public toilet to a useable, life sustaining creek is offered to the public at this Riverkeeper event at Delaware Park.

The raffle of the Hornbeck canoe represents a touch of irony: while canoeing is permitted on the fetid waterway, it is not something to recommend to health conscious individuals. Yet the canoe could represent hope that this important waterway will be pristine again and offer recreational opportunities as it did in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when Buffalo was among the leading American cities.


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Sediment pile (left) in creek at Forest Lawn Cemetery.

Tickets are $35.00 per person, and can be purchased in advance at BNRIVERKEEPER.ORG/TICKETS or by calling 716-852-7483 extension 38. Tickets will also be available for purchase at the door.

Scajaquada Creek as it leaves Forest Lawn and enters into Hoyt Lake. If the creek were pristine it would open up superb recreational opportunities for visitors and residents alike.

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Frank Parlato

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  • Scajacquada Creek should be unearthed through Schiller Park, as should Cornelius Creek under Towpath Park.