Odors increase at malfunctioning sewer plant

| 22 Feb 2012 | 01:36

    Rockland refuses sludge: Orange County is now sending waste to Connecticut, By Edie Johnson Harriman — Sewer treatment plants smell worst in summer. The stink tends to linger in the still, hot air. This summer’s mechanical problems at the Harriman sewage treatment plant are making the odor even more foul. Over the past few weeks, Rockland County, where sludge from the plant is trucked, refused several loads of the waste. Rockland told Orange County this week that it will no longer accept sludge from Harriman because of its poor quality. For now, Orange County is shipping its sludge to Connecticut. This is only the latest problem plaguing the Harriman plant, despite some recent fixes. Last month the county legislature’s Physical Services Committee approved some mechanical upgrades to replace old pipe and frost-free connections. But another problem has arisen, this time with the membranes that filter waste particles from water. This inadequately processed sludge is making the odor especially strong. New process to be tested Orange County Executive Ed Diana said he expects to solve the problem soon. He said he has been talking to Ramapo Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence, who is also head of the Ramapo Municipal Watershed Alliance. Engineers at the plant are fixing the membranes and other problems getting in the way of the effective processing of sewage. Plant officers who attended the Physical Services Committee meeting agreed it would be worthwhile to test the discharges of various users. But they have another idea: a new technology, in which certain chemicals are injected into the system to speed up the process. But it is expensive, and dosages must be carefully calculated. And the plant officers warned that the result is often “not that good.” An even newer treatment process uses variable nano-frequencies to break down waste. The county has scheduled a pilot trial run for next week. The process itself is so complex that Commissioner of Environmental Services Peter Hammond, did not even try to describe it further, except to say that when the “smell particles” are treated, the odor will banish. This process is widely used in Canada with great success, he said. Tests show it to be very safe, he said, with surplus oxygen the only byproduct of the treatment. Back when ... Meanwhile, county officials and Harriman Mayor Steve Welle are fielding calls of complaint from Harriman residents. Legislator Katie Bonelli of Blooming Grove asked for better communication from county officials about the plant. Years ago, she recalled, local officials had regular meetings at the plant, which gave them the chance to stay on top of problems.

    Sewage, step by step
    1. Sewage enters the Harriman plant, where it is treated with chemicals and microbes to separate the particles.
    2. The sewage then passes through membranes to finish the job of separating particles from water.
    3. The water is returned to the Ramapo River, while the residue from the treatment process — sludge, in other words — is transported off-site.
    4. The water flows down to Ramapo’s new, state-of-the-art sewer treatment plant, where it is filtered yet again before continuing its journey south, where it becomes drinking water for several million Rockland and New Jersey residents, as far down as Passaic.