Village works toward wastewater compliance
WATKINS GLEN—The Watkins Glen village board reported progress Monday, March 17 with the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) regarding issues at the wastewater treatment plant. Watkins Glen Mayor Mark Swinnerton said the board met with the DEC last week and came up with a set of issues the village could work to get the plant back in compliance. The mayor said the consent order on the plant may be modified to include a fine, but it all depends on how the village reacts to the problems at the plant.
“What has changed last time to this time is we met with the DEC, brought the entire team together and tried to lay the path forward,” Swinnerton said. “What we need to do is fix the plant and get it to work within limits on a regular basis. Right now we are probably exceeding the limits more than we are under limits. We had a span there, but we are going to be looking at that much closer now and spending some additional dollars with design engineers and environmental engineers to try to get the plant back in compliance. That meeting was a big part of moving forward.”
Trustee Paul Clifford said a lot of the violations at the plant have been too much chlorine residual going into the lake. He said in one 24 hour period, there were two spikes with levels just higher than the allowed limit that lasted two minutes each. Clifford said the village was told by the DEC to let them know of more similar instances because they view those as less serious violations.
“The way the compliance issue has been, they kind of assume it has been this chronic, indefinite problem,” Deputy Mayor Scott Gibson said. “It’s not like we are operating [at double the allowed level] for 24 hours. They are blips. They are not all like that, but there are a considerable number that are.”
Trustee Anthony Fraboni said the DEC appreciated the explanation of the problems the plant was having. Clifford said constantly monitoring the issues and reporting them to the DEC will help to fend off the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
“We need to give the DEC the ammunition to hold off the EPA so they can understand we are being proactive in trying to resolve these issues,” Swinnerton said.
Swinnerton said the village has to work closely with their engineers and do exactly what they are told to do.
“If we veer off that plan and the plant isn’t meeting consent order, we have no defense,” Swinnerton said.
The mayor said he thinks the village has a good plan moving forward, but the future of the plant and possibly the proposed regional wastewater treatment plant lies with how the village keeps working with the DEC and its engineers. He said the consent order on the plant will be modified, which could include a fine, but he believes it is being held off on until they see what the village comes back with.
“We are at a point where we have no options, we have too much to lose,” Swinnerton said. “If we can’t turn it around I don’t know what we will do. We don’t want to make a large investment down there because we all know what will happen if we do.”
Swinnerton said they are making a large manpower investment at the plant to track and report the problems as they occur. He said the plant still has to survive for a few more years before the regional plant, and that any significant expense at the current plant could be a significant setback for the regional plant.
“We have two to three years here this plant has to thrive,” Swinnerton said. “Every financial setback we have is less ability to move forward with the new plant. There is a certain amount of investment we have to do to keep moving forward, and that is what we are doing. Unfortunately it’s going to cost the taxpayers.”
In other business:
• After looking into the possibility of turning Partition Street into a one-way last board meeting, the village decided against the proposition. Several residents attended the meeting to speak against the one-way street, but Swinnerton said after seeing Police Chief Tom Struble's report, it is something the village is not going to do.
• Junior Specchio spoke commending the Watkins Glen Fire Department members for all the training they go through. He said it helps prevents tragedies like the death of an Owego Fireman who was killed while responding to a fire in Newark Valley.