Orange County planning to expand sewage treatment

Times Herald-Record |

--Orange County consultants plan to discuss in two weeks options for increased sewage treatment that will include piping wastewater from southeastern Orange to a new treatment plant in New Windsor that would discharge into the Hudson River.

A panel of administration officials and county lawmakers has met periodically with a Delaware Engineering representative since March to lay the groundwork for what will likely be a major project, costing tens of millions of dollars. On Tuesday, the committee was given a tentative schedule showing it will review Delaware's forthcoming report on , followed by steps that culminate in the county Legislature approving bonds to fund the work by a target date of .

It turns out those plans for expanded treatment are now mandatory, not merely exploratory.

The county crossed a legal threshold at the end of February when the combined usage of its treatment plant in Harriman and Kiryas Joel's plant triggered the provisions of a court settlement then-County Executive Ed Diana reached with Kiryas Joel's leaders in 2010. The county must now take a series of steps to expand treatment capacity under the terms and deadlines of that agreement.

Delaware Engineering already presented options in a draft report in 2016 for expanding the Harriman plant or freeing up space in it by piping some of its wastewater to the Village of Goshen's treatment plant. Delaware partner Mary Beth Bianconi told the sewer committee on Tuesday that her firm's recommendations will include updated cost estimates for those ideas, plus new proposals for piping wastewater to New Windsor.

The committee also has been discussing a separate project to increase the life of the 45-year-old Harriman plant, which would cost an estimated $23.5 million and wouldn't increase capacity. But Bianconi revealed an option on Tuesday that would make that upgrade unnecessary: closing the Harriman plant and piping all of the county's wastewater to a New Windsor facility, rather than using the new plant as a secondary treatment site.

Bianconi had described the potential New Windsor plant in July as a supplemental facility for the county, which could be shared with the Town of New Windsor and other interested municipalities with aging or inadequate plants.

The 2010 settlement between Diana and Kiryas Joel required the county to expand treatment capacity once the 12-month average use of the Harriman and Kiryas Joel plants passed 85 percent of their total capacity for three out of six months.

According to flow data from the Environmental Protection Agency, that happened in December, January and February because of unusually heavy use in November. The plant averaged 8 million gallons a day that month, 2 million gallons above its permitted capacity and far beyond any levels since then. The June average was 4.8 million gallons per day.

Kiryas Joel's attorneys sent county officials a letter last week that outlined the county's obligations under the 2010 agreement and asked for a summary of the steps it had taken and planned to take to fulfill them. The schedule distributed on Tuesday appeared to answer that request.

cmckenna@th-record.com

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