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Niskayuna, GE seeking better way to deal with wastewater

Wednesday, May 15, 2013
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— General Electric has made preliminary inquiries with the town on how to better handle wastewater from its Niskayuna facility, and has recently hired a consultant to look into the matter, officials said.

General Electric currently sends some of its wastewater to the town and treats some on-site. The consultant will help determine if the town can take on more of those responsibilities and, if it can, what GE would have to do to make that happen, officials said.

Any final plan, which isn’t expected until at least the end of summer, would also have to get the blessing of the state Department of Environmental Conservation because of the town’s ongoing District 6 sewer flow problems. The DEC has mandated the town reduce the amount of groundwater leaking into the system before any new customers can be brought online.

Addressing another issue, the town is also ready to seek bids for design work on improvements to the wastewater treatment plant to better handle peak flows. Previous studies indicated those improvements could include a tank or tanks to hold excess flows that come with storms.

“Our hope is to get the design work done this year so then next year we can actually hire a contractor and start construction,” town Water and Sewer Superintendent Richard Pollock said recently. The design work is expected to cost as much as $50,000.

Regarding increased output from GE, Pollock said it could ultimately mean moving the outflow to a different town pump station, relieving pressure on the current station. General Electric could also offer extra tanks to help handle the flow, Pollock said.

Todd Alhart, spokesman for GE Global Research in Niskayuna, said the company’s inquiries came as a result of both the town and GE looking to make system upgrades. The goal, he said, is to explore how they could work together to benefit both sides.

But Alhart cautioned it is still very early in the process. He also declined to speculate on what the final recommendations would be, wanting to wait until the engineering firm did its work.

Then any findings would have to get the approval of the DEC, town officials said.

The DEC faulted the town in the fall of 2010 for the condition of its District 6 sanitary sewer system. The town had been working on fixing the problems since a 2003 DEC order but was found in violation in 2010. The town and DEC agreed that December on a settlement that included a $7,500 fine and a residential building moratorium.

The DEC-imposed moratorium would restrict development if certain flow benchmarks weren’t met.

Town officials have said they believe the sewer numbers could be brought down enough so that by the time any new project submitted after that date is ready to build, the moratorium won’t be an issue.

The plan is to reduce flows to desired levels over five years using a variety of methods, including fixing town pipes.

The District 6 sanitary sewer system is one of two in town and encompasses the area roughly east of Balltown Road.

 
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