Monroe, Chester move forward on building their own sewage plant

| 22 Feb 2012 | 02:15

    Location along Black Meadow Creek in Tetz Industrial Park considered ideal, By Edie Johnson Chester — With the Harriman sewer treatment plant nearly full, and the looming prospect of increased rates, the town and village of Chester and the town of Monroe have decided to build their own plant on the Black Meadow Creek. The idea of a new plant has bounced around for years. But the county’s intention to expand the Harriman plant has prompted a renewed outcry over what it will cost and who will pay for it. At this week’s Moodna Sewer Commission, members took their first serious look at the pros and cons of building their own plant. The mood was clearly “Go for it.” Members agreed they did not want to leave the current system abruptly but rather wean themselves off Harriman toward self-sufficiency. The Town of Chester promised the last bit of its sewer allotment to the Greens of Chester, a 431-unit development just emerging from a lengthy legal settlement. But all commission members must come up with additional capacity for developments in the planning process. The alternatives — running lines to the county’s Sewer District 1, or allowing small package treatment plants for each development — are costly and unreliable, they said. And the package plants pose a greater risk to aquifers than centralized plants. At this stage, the commission plans to build a plant that can handle 300,000 gallons per day and that can easily upgrade to 600,000 gallons per day if needed. Dick McGoey of McGoey Hauser & Edsall, Chester’s engineering firm, proposed an innovative treatment process involving lightweight balls, resembling whiffle balls, packed with treatment materials. They would bounce around in tanks filled with sludge and treat much more waste than is possible with conventional methods. If the plant needs more capacity, McGoey said, it can add more of the lightweight balls. The aerobic treatment process will prevent odor, he said. Commission members said the ideal location is a 19-acre site on a relatively remote area in the Tetz Industrial Park off of Route 94 in Chester, nearly opposite The Greens development. The plant’s footprint will be one and a half acres. Discharge into the Black Meadow Creek will be strictly regulated and carefully monitored, members said. The new plant is estimated to cost between $4 and $4.7 million. Jim Farr, Chester’s planning engineer, said that amount is not likely to change. “It’s a set amount of metal and stone,” he said. Commission members said they liked the idea of controlling their own destiny. Local officials have often complained about the difficulty in getting information about costs at the Harriman plant from the county. “Relying on the county at any time can be a burden, and operating and maintenance costs would be more controllable” if the commission built its own plant, said commission administrator Jim Salerno. The county plans to charge $15 per gallon of discharge while the expansion work at Harriman is being done. But towns have no guarantee how long that price will hold. Local officials are afraid a project of this size, and plans to connect the former Camp LaGuardia property to Sewer District 1, could boost the cost to over $20 per gallon. Meanwhile, the commission members said, a new plant at Black Meadow would be able to treat sewage for $12 to $13 per gallon. New developers — including BT Holdings, which plans to build townhouses behind the Chester ShopRite Mall, and Mountco, which plans to develop the LaGuardia site — would be expected to contribute an extra share because so many others have for years paid into the system without using it. But Chester Supervisor Steve Neuhaus cautioned, “Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.” He recommended that the commission keep at least some lines open to the Harriman plant in case additional capacity is needed in the future. Monroe Supervisor Sandy Leonard said she will also keep her options open, especially in the early stages. She wants to see maps that show which houses are in Sewer District 1 and which are in Moodna. Some, she said, are in “Never Never Land.” If the Black Meadow proposal moves forward, she said, her town board will consider joining the new plant by reversing lines that now go to Harriman. Leonard also wanted to know how much money the commission will really save in building a new plant. Commission members said they realize any attempt to build a new plant will meet with lots of opposition. Environmental advocates have talked about the stresses that the industrial park already puts on the Black Meadow Creek. Straus News has discovered that Michael Edelstein, the president of the nonprofit citizens’ group Orange Environment, never gave the plant its “blessing,” as some officials had asserted at a recent commission meeting. The newspaper apologizes to Edelstein for not checking with him directly before reporting these assertions. Edelstein has said a new plant at Black Meadow would make possible a “growth surge” in Chester, and questioned whether the Black Meadow would be able to handle the effluent from a new plant, given the pressure development has already put on the creek. McGoey Hauser will give a comprehensive presentation with more specific information at a joint meeting, open to the public, yet to be scheduled.

    Essential information
    Cost: $4.5 million to $4.7 million for capacity of 300,000 gallons per day
    Location: Tetz Industrial Park in Chester, along Black Meadow Creek
    Timeline: Three years from start of construction to turnkey operation
    Village of Chester promises to contract for 121,000 to 125,000 gallons per day
    The Greens of Chester will contract for 100,000 to 125,000 gallons per day
    Town of Chester retains 50,000 gallons per day of excess capacity plus 125,000 gallons per day of Harriman capacity promised to The Greens