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Funding shortfall adds to questions about Glove Cities wastewater plant expansion

Friday, December 21, 2012
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Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Wednesday that $738 million has been awarded through Round Two of the Regional Economic Development Council initiative. Seen is the Gloversville-Johnstown Joint Wastewater Treatment Facilities, located at 191 Union Ave. in Johnstown.
Photographer: Marc Schultz
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Wednesday that $738 million has been awarded through Round Two of the Regional Economic Development Council initiative. Seen is the Gloversville-Johnstown Joint Wastewater Treatment Facilities, located at 191 Union Ave. in Johnstown.

— The Gloversville-Johnstown Joint Wastewater Treatment Facility received less than half the money it requested from the state for a $4.5 million upgrade project, meaning it will have to use reserves and bonds to cover the remainder of the cost.

However, before the facility’s governing board commits to the project, it will want to make sure the main beneficiary of the project, the Greek yogurt maker Fage, has itself committed to a proposed $100 million expansion, said Tyler Masick, wastewater plant engineer.

The wastewater treatment facility received $1 million of its $2.25 million request in the second round of funding to the Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Council.

The economic development awards were announced Wednesday.

The treatment plant can handle 13.8 million gallons per day; it is currently receiving 5.7 million gallons.

It needs the upgrade to handle additional wastewater expected to come from Fage’s production facility in the Johnstown Industrial Park.

Fage recently said it will break ground next year on the long-planned, $100 million, 180,000-square-foot addition. When the expansion is fully operational, Fage is expected to send 835,000 gallons per day of moderate-strength wastewater to the plant, double its current contract.

The problem is Fage is telling treatment plant operators to expect a full load in 2016, Masick said. Fage’s agreement with the treatment plant states the yogurt maker must show “substantial completion by 2014” on its expansion plans, otherwise the Joint Sewer Board will not move forward with its own plans to spend $4.5 million on the plant’s upgrade.

Masick said the language means Fage has to be fully committed in its upgrade next year, “so we are not wasting taxpayer money.” He said the language is sufficiently broad to allow leeway in its interpretation, however.

Masick said the Joint Sewer Board wants to break ground on the plant upgrade in July, but if the month of “May comes around and there are no shovels in ground [for the Fage project], people should be worried.”

As part of Fage’s expansion, the company has to build a $15 million whey pretreatment facility near the wastewater treatment facility. The pretreatment facility will contain digesters to break down heavy solids left over from the yogurt-making process.

Masick said Fage’s production process will generate wastewater that contains a biochemical oxygen demand of 3,000 milligrams per liter, whereas regular wastewater from a home would contain a BOD of 200 mgl.

After treatment, water released into the Cayadutta Creek is supposed to contain a BOD in the “single digits,” he said.

“This is basically fish food,” he said. The Cayadutta Creek is classified as a Class C trout stream.

Masick said the upgrade includes the introduction of a new contact absorption process to treat wastewater; the process will help reduce the plant’s operating costs. The upgrade will also include the installation of a 400,000-gallon treatment tank.

“We have existing tanks from a 1990 upgrade that are sitting here, and we will use those,” Masick said.

Masick said the Joint Sewer Board uses reserves for upgrade and rate stabilization.

 
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