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Wastewater plant exceeds state bacteria levels

    WATKINS GLEN—The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation reported the Watkins Glen Wastewater Treatment Plant is allowing water into the lake with higher than normal levels of bacteria.
    According to the June 24 inspection report, which was discussed at the Monday, July 18, board meeting, the plant has consistently exceeded the State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) permit limits for fecal coliform and total coliform since 2007. The New York State Department of Health said that fecal coliforms are bacteria found in people’s and animals’ digestive tracts and in their waste.Total coliform is bacteria found in soil and water that has been influenced by surface water and waste. The DOH said most coliforms will not cause disease, but the presence of the bacteria in drinking water can increase the risk of contracting a water-based illness. The DEC’s report never said there was an immediate risk due to the bacteria.
    The state said the village installed a chlorine meter in the plant’s effluent channel in 2010 to eliminate the exceeded amounts. However, the report said levels of coliform are still above the allowed level. The DEC told Watkins Glen to have an engineering firm investigate the problem and report the recommendations to the state as soon as possible.
    Board member Scott Gibson said the DEC is saying it would fine the village up to $37,500 a day if Watkins were to do nothing. The board agreed to hire a consultant as the DEC requested, not to exceed $5,000. The state made no other immediate orders of the wastewater treatment plant concerning bacteria. Gibson said at the moment the village doesn’t know why the bacteria levels are too high.
    The DEC’s report also gave the village negative marks for not having a certified Grade 3A Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator as the chief operator. Gibson said he can get the Ithaca water treatment plant operator to visit the treatment plant and offer his suggestions as well.
    In other business:
    • The village board also discussed the new raw water treatment plant. Mayor Mark Swinnerton explained the village is considering several options now that the construction of a new building came in over bid. He said one would be to buy a pre-cast structure to house the pump. Swinnerton added the agreement with owner of the current intake plant, Bill Benedict, had the village out of that structure by July 16. He said the village is discussing some sort of lease with Benedict until the village can move out of the existing building. Swinnerton added another possible option is to just buy the plant back from the developer; the village sold the intake plant to Benedict who wanted to turn it into apartments and a restaurant. Swinnerton said an assessor will visit the building in the next few weeks to determine its value.
    • The board approved spending $5,349.01 on a U-shaped counter for the police office. Sgt. Steven Decker said a similar counter was used in the office before the village hall was renovated by all officers. The counter will be attached to three walls in the office.
    • The village board also approved buying five recessed key boxes at $255 a piece. They will be installed at the municipal building, parks office, community center, sewer plant, and water plant. First Assistant Chief Judson Smith explained the boxes will contain all important keys for each building and will be installed at each office. He said if there is an emergency, the responding firefighters can access the keys to the building so they don’t have to break down or damage doors trying to gain access. Smith added access to the boxes is only granted by the 911 center.




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