Saratoga County

Saratoga County sewer district seeks $40K in federal aid

The county sewer district will seek federal reimbursement for up to $40,000 in unexpected costs run

The county sewer district will seek federal reimbursement for up to $40,000 in unexpected costs run up during tropical storms Irene and Lee.

A claim to the Federal Emergency Management Agency would cover costs incurred while coping with large volumes of storm water coming into the system. At the same time, the treatment plant and pumping stations throughout the system were experiencing storm-related power outages.

Despite the difficult conditions, the sewer district fared well overall, said its executive director, James DiPasquale.

There’s one potential issue: Two pumping stations around Saratoga Lake were overwhelmed by the volume and 10,000 to 15,000 gallons of raw sewage overflowed into the lake, he said. The incidents have been reported as required to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

“But there was nothing we could do,” DiPasquale said.

Such overflows can result in environmental violation fines, but DEC officials will consider the circumstances created by the storms, DEC spokeswoman Lisa King said.

“Facilities impacted by the storm should describe the circumstances leading to the bypass so that DEC can determine if the bypass was unavoidable. DEC will evaluate the bypass reports and will exercise enforcement discretion if the bypass was unavoidable,” she said Thursday.

While most of Saratoga County was spared the disastrous flooding seen in Schoharie, Montgomery and Schenectady counties, it received more than a foot of rain in just more than a week’s time. FEMA has declared the county eligible for public assistance aid, which could cover the sewer district’s costs.

Despite the high wastewater volumes, at no point did the treatment plant in Halfmoon have to discharge untreated wastewater into the Hudson River, DiPasquale said.

The plant recently doubled its treatment capacity to 43 million gallons per day, more than twice the capacity it normally needs; after Irene, the plant was receiving a flow equivalent to 50 million gallons a day, DiPasquale said. The district was able to store the excess flow and treat it gradually, avoiding an overflow at the main plant similar to the ones at the pumping stations.

The request for an estimated $40,000 in FEMA aid would cover staff overtime and the extra expenses of operating the treatment plant with backup generators, because electricity was unreliable during and after Irene. In total, the treatment plant ran for 13 hours on diesel generators.

Irene struck on a Sunday and Tropical Storm Lee started to hit on Labor Day weekend, so the district’s response involved a significant amount of employee overtime.

“All in all, it went pretty well,” DiPasquale told county sewer commissioners in a report. “There were no major situations with environmental consequences.”

It helped, he said, that the district had several days to prepare for Hurricane Irene, taking measures like fueling up the generators.

The commissioners passed a resolution commending employees for their handling of the emergency.

“Great job, folks, really,” said commission Chairman William Davis.

The sewer district handles sewage treatment for southern Saratoga County and the Northway corridor communities from Wilton and Saratoga Springs south, with about 100,000 users.

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