Town Board amends local law enacting tougher drainage connection penalties
Niskayuna officials submitted their plan to address sewer problems to the Department of Environmental Conservation by the recent deadline. Now, officials are left waiting for the DEC’s blessing or recommendations.
The DEC recently reached an agreement with the town regarding an order of consent to reduce the inflow and infiltration into the District 6 sanitary sewer system. Town officials could wait up to 60 days for the DEC’s approval or rejection of their plan. If the DEC rejects the plan, it will provide the recommendations for what areas need to be addressed before submitting a revised plan.
During the Niskayuna Town Board meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 25, council members unanimously passed a resolution to amend a local law to have stronger penalties for improper drainage connections.
This is all part of what we will be doing for the DEC consent order, said Councilwoman Denise Murphy McGraw about the amended law, after the meeting. `It is part of making homeowners or large apartment complexes and businesses more compliant with their [drainage connection].`
There was a public hearing held on the amendment during the meeting, but no residents spoke out about the change and board members didn’t discuss the amendment before voting. The agenda provided to the public at the meeting included the new language for local law No. 15.
Under the old law, any person, firm, or corporation having improper drainage connections into the sanitary sewer system could face a maximum penalty of $50 and would be charged with a misdemeanor, which also included a maximum fine of $25. Now, any person or entity owning a single- or two-family dwelling upon conviction will be fined a minimum of $50 and a maximum $100.
Also, under the new law any person or entity owning a multi-family dwelling for three or more families or a commercial building could face the same minimum and maximum fines for every sewer unit. For example, if a business had 10 sewer units the minimum fine would be $500 with a maximum of $1,000.
Each day a violation continues it is considered a separate offense. The misdemeanor charge has been removed though and all drainage connections, past and present, are held under the law.
Town officials also have a few different areas they are looking to tackle the problem.
The Chazen Companies were hired by the town and paid around $12,000, according to Richard Pollock, superintendent for engineering at the town, to find solutions for how the town can address the inflow and infiltration (I/I)concerns.
Inflow is storm water entering the sanitary sewer system through direct connection points, such as improper connections of sump pumps in residential homes. Infiltration is ground water that enters the sanitary sewer cracks in sewer pipes.
`It is going to take us a while to find out how much money we are going to have to spend and how much money we are spending to make certain improvements,` said Supervisor Joe Landry. `We go on a year to year budget process based on what we want to do with the collection system and other improvements we believe.`
If the town did all of the recommendations provided by Chazen it would cost around $3 million over five years, but Pollock said it isn’t clear how much work the town will need to do in order to reduce the I/I levels.
Expansion of the waste water treatment plant isn’t warranted until around 2020, which would be a significant cost, said Pollock. The waste water treatment plant is currently rated to handle 3 million gallons per day, but Pollock said the WWTP can handle 4.5 million gallons per day.
Pollock said when flow limits are exceeded the only difference in processing is that three of the four aeration tanks are shut down and the air is turned off. Those tanks hold what Pollock referred to as `bugs,` which are microorganisms that treat the water.
`That is the part that DEC objects to, and they are saying that is not full treatment,` said Pollock. `People debate that is it full treatment or not. I guess my belief is, no, it is not full treatment in that we don’t have the air on and it is only one out of four tanks.`
The town’s water is emptied into the Mohawk River, but even in the excess flows to the town the water entering the river is `not raw sewage,` said Landry.
As part of the settlement reached between the town and the DEC a fine of $7,500 was imposed with an additional $30,000 fine held and withdrawn if the town doesn’t again violate the agreement. Another part of the agreement created a residential building moratorium with projects that weren’t accepted by the town before Dec. 3, 2010, not being allowed to make new connections to the sewer system.“
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