August 12, 2008


Groton objects to DEC sewer requirements

State wants to further limit phosphorous levels, adding to cost of planned treatment plant


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer    
Al Morehouse, Groton’s Water Treatment Facility operator, points out the workings of the aeration tank which is the last stage of the treatment process before wastewater is released downstream.

Staff Reporter

GROTON — Village officials objected to stricter state environmental regulations that would increase the cost of the village’s planned wastewater treatment plant.
In a letter dated Aug. 6, the Village Board of Trustees, village engineer, village attorney and village staff expressed objections to a newly defined state Department of Environmental Conservation rule.
The new DEC requirement would limit the level of phosphorus in treated wastewater to 0.5 parts per million, or half of what the limit has been since 2006.
Under the DEC’s new rules, which were approved in June, in order to secure a wastewater treatment permit, a facility must limit the level of phosphorous in the water it releases to 0.5 parts per million, or about two pounds per day in the case of a facility the size of Groton’s.
This new requirement would increase the price tag on Groton’s planned wastewater facility from $2 million to $2.5 million, adding strain to village taxpayers, said Village Clerk Charles Rankin.
In their letter to the DEC, Groton officials wrote that it was unfair for the new requirements to be placed solely upon Groton, when other significant sources of phosphorus also contribute to the level in Owasco Lake.  Expenses would go up significantly for the 708 village residents who use the sewer system, they wrote.
“(W)e estimate that the sewer rate increase could range from 75 percent to 100 percent,” the letter reads.
The letter further claims the DEC failed to provide specific scientific evidence to support the new 0.5-parts-per-million limit on phosphorous, and requests that data be provided to the village.
“In lieu of us being provided this information, it is our conclusion that this limit was not set on a scientific basis, but was unfounded and arbitrarily made based on political considerations in deference to the positions of the state legislators, Cayuga County, city of Auburn, and other officials of the local governments that border the lake,” Groton officials wrote.
Maureen Wren, a DEC spokeswoman in Albany, said the 0.5-parts-per-million requirement is based on a comprehensive review of Owasco Lake and the aquifer. “It’s something that the DEC has taken a comprehensive look at in terms of the overall health of the aquifer,” she said.
Rankin said the new requirements have pushed construction of the planned water treatment facility back by about a year , and in the letter, Groton officials requested that the deadline for proposed plans and specifications be delayed until Feb. 28, 2009, to allow for required modifications. Rankin said the delay will mean increased total construction costs, since prices have risen since last year.


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