CARS HOMES JOBS

Tech park sewers likely to become Saratoga County property

Wednesday, January 23, 2013
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— The Saratoga County Sewer District is preparing to take over the large private sewer line that serves the GlobalFoundries computer chip plant.

District officials are expressing a willingness to waive their usual rules for accepting ownership of a private sewer system, including requiring financial guarantees against future breakdowns to the line.

“There are provisions for dealing with situations outside the norm,” said Assistant County Attorney Robert Wilcox. “This is a different animal.”

The 3.5-mile line is enormous as private sewer lines go — capable of handling 10 millions gallons per day. It was sized to meet the needs of GlobalFoundries and future tenants of the Luther Forest Technology Campus.

The line runs from the campus along Cold Springs, Fitch and Farley roads, to meet the county sewer system near Coons Crossing. It was built between 2008 and 2011.

The line was built by and is owned by the Luther Forest Technology Campus Economic Development Corp., which owns the 1,414-acre industrial campus where GlobalFoundries is building its $8.5 billion computer chip complex.

With its first chip plant in production, GlobalFoundries is currently the only customer, discharging 1.6 million to 1.7 million gallons of industrial wastewater into the line each day. It has plans to add a major research and development center by 2014, and potentially a second computer chip plant.

Despite the apparent success of GlobalFoundries, though, the LFTC Economic Development Corp. is under severe financial stress and may be legally dissolved. That would include disposal of physical assets like the sewer line, which cost approximately $6 million.

It’s common for the sewer district to take over private sewer lines following construction by a developer, but normally the developer puts up financial guarantees.

In this case, it doesn’t appear the non-profit development corporation has the ability to do that.

Also, when the line first went into operation in 2009, there were technical problems that caused the district to say it wouldn’t accept ownership at that time.

But modifications including the addition of another manhole resolved those issues as of mid-2011, and the line has been without problems since then, said Richard Doyle, chairman of the sewer district’s engineering committee. The C.T. Male engineering firm, which oversaw construction, worked with the district, he said.

“We spent a lot of time with them, and they have certified the line for up to 10 million gallons,” Doyle said after a sewer commission meeting Wednesday at the treatment plant in Halfmoon.

The line was designed with such high capacity in anticipation of other businesses someday coming to the technology campus, though none have, and that’s a primary reason for the corporation’s anticipated financial failure.

Wilcox said the district commissioners have the ability to waive the requirement that the developer post financial guarantees.

If the corporation goes out of business without an ownership transfer, he said, the line would be considered legally abandoned. Under that scenario, the town of Stillwater and the sewer district would be left to resolve the matter between themselves, but one or the other would have to accept legal responsibility, Wilcox said.

William Davis, chairman of the county sewer commission, said, “We hope to take action on this, somehow, next month.”

 
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