June 22, 2013


City readies sewer upgrades

PlantBob Ellis/staff photographer
Bruce Adams, chief operator at the city’s wastewater treatment plant on Port Watson Street, walks along the aeration basins at the plant on Friday. The city will be making $13.5 million in improvements to the plant over the next three years.

Staff Reporter

The city is preparing to move ahead quickly with work on a $13.5 million upgrade to the wastewater treatment plant aimed at minimizing its impact on the environment while cutting costs.
Chief Operator Bruce Adams said the groundwork has already been laid for the project to start almost immediately.
“We’ve already started prep work and planning pipe runs,” he said.
The facility has also cleared some space for the new system.
Adams added the facility will be able to accommodate the planned Byrne Dairy yogurt facility’s acid whey waste by the projected early spring 2014 opening of the Cortlandville factory.
The Common Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to have the work done at the Wastewater Treatment Plant on Port Watson Street to comply with state and federal sewage discharge limits.
The project will be financed by the state Environmental Facilities Corp., which provides the money at low interest rates to communities working on environmental projects.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation has been working with the federal Environmental Protection Agency to find ways to reduce nitrates and phosphorus produced by treatment facilities, including the one in Cortland, that are within the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
The plant will install new equipment while making the necessary upgrades which will help the facility to comply with new regulations set by the DEC’s Watershed Implementation Plan.
Adams says the facility will also become more economical.
“The upgraded facility will reduce operational and maintenance costs,” Adams said. “A significant portion of the savings will be realized in lower energy costs.”
He added that the $485,000 annual cost of electricity and natural gas to power the treatment plant will drop by 42 percent as a result of the project.
“Debt payments will also go down because we are reaching the end of some relatively high-interest debt and the new debt will carry a lower interest rate,” Adams also said.
Mack Cook, the city’s director of administration and finance, who has been working with the facility’s financial advisors, said there will be a 12.6 percent decrease in the amount paid toward its debts.
The city will pay off debt with annual payments totaling $713,472 and replace it with new debt from the project totaling $623,750, he said.
Improvements and upgrades will take place over the next three years and will be implemented in three phases; phase one which is under way, and phases 2 and 3 will be done in 2014 and 2015, respectively.
Debt payments are not expected to begin until 2015, Cook said.
This year the facility will be installing a new bar screen and solids handling system. This will allow the facility to get more use out of its digesters by releasing a lot of water from sludge they were designed to collect.
The bar screen will filter out large pieces of debris that could potentially damage equipment. Adams also said the current bar screen system is difficult to maintain so an upgrade would make disposal less problematic.
In 2014, the facility will convert its main sewage treatment process, going from an activated sludge process to a sequencing batch reactor. Adams says making this move will reduce the facility’s nitrate output to levels acceptable to the DEC. The facility will also be updating its supervisory control and data acquisition system, a computer system which helps monitor and control the facility processes.
In 2015, the facility will be installing a combined heat and power project allowing the facility to harness methane gas released during the treatment process and using it to power the facility. They will also be installing a new digester to handle the acid whey waste from the planned Byrne Dairy plant once it becomes operational. Adams added the facility does have the ability to take care of the waste until then.
The facility also has the benefit of using staff already on the payroll to install new equipment instead of hiring contractors to do the job. Adams noted the city spent $450,000 to buy a blower system which was installed by plant employees in February. If the city had hired a contractor, Adams said it could have easily become a $1 million project.

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