Key phase in infrastructure upgrades underway

Photo Kristin Schultz
State and local officials commemorated continued improvement work at Niskayuna's Wastewater Treatment Plant.Photo Kristin Schultz State and local officials commemorated continued improvement work at Niskayuna's Wastewater Treatment Plant.

By Kristin Schultz

Gazette Reporter

NISKAYUNA — In the shadow of a new equalization tank, officials broke ground on the remainder of a multimillion dollar upgrade to the Sewer District 6 wastewater treatment plant that will bring it into compliance with state requirements and improve and expand the plant’s capacity.

The $17 million project got underway in 2015 when engineering consultants Barton & Loguidice conducted a study of Niskayuna’s wastewater management facility. Based on their plan, Newburgh, Indiana-based company Energy Systems Group (ESG) was tapped to undertake the project using a design-build construction model.

Improvements include new primary clarifier baffles, activated sludge aeration system, a new UV disinfection system and a biogas-driven energy system. The methane released during part of the treatment process can be used to power the plant, saving the town an estimated $95,000 in electric and $60,000 in natural gas costs annually, according to town officials.

The last major renovation to the treatment plant, built in the 1960s, dates to the early 1990s. Increased residential development in the early 2000s put additional strain on the already-taxed sewer system.

According to town officials, some of the original electrical and mechanical pieces are still in place and in need of upgrading, as they are obsolete and replacement parts are simply not made anymore.

According to water and sewer Superintendent Rich Pollock, new technology will allow plant workers to keep a closer eye on the equipment, identifying potential issues before they become big problems.

“We’ll be able to monitor the system and receive automatic alerts when something like run time or pressure goes outside of the parameters,” Pollack said.

In addition to computerized controls, the wastewater plant will see infrastructure upgrades like the recently completed equalization tank, which is able to store sewage during high water flow events. The current capacity of plant is 3 million gallons per day.

“If during a high flow event, the flow is coming in at a higher rate, we can kick on a pump and divert some of the sewage into the tank until the storm passes and the flow decreases,” said Pollock.

To date, the town has bonded $9 million for the project and plans to bond another $8 million in the coming months.

Work on the site began in March with the construction of the equalization tank, and is expected to continue into 2018.

Until the completion of the  project, Niskayuna will remain under a sewer moratorium as imposed by the state. That essentially translates to a moratorium on residential developments that require tie-ins to the town’s sewer system.  

The plans call for an expansion in the wastewater treatment plant’s capacity from 3 million gallons per day to 3.5 million gallons per day, which, along with the other state-mandated improvements, would “position Niskayuna for future economic growth,” according to an official statement.

The town’s overburdened sewer system first caught the state’s eye in 2003 and has since cost the town $22,500 in civil penalties for failing to remediate the issues on schedule.

On hand for the groundbreaking were:

— Rich Pollock, town of Niskayuna superintendent of Public Works.

— Kevin Jones, Energy Systems Group

— Alexander Smith, chief of DEC’s Stream Monitoring and Assessment Section and director of the Mohawk River Basin Program.

— Assemblyman Phil Steck.

— Bill McPartlon, town councilman.

— Joe Landry, town supervisor.

— Lisa Weber, town councilwoman

— Tony Jasenski, Schenectady County Legislature chairman,

— Rich Straut of Barton & Loguidice.

— Greg Collins, ESG president.