Schenectady County

Schenectady ordered to repair sewer overflow

Dave Hauber called the problem disgusting. Actually, there’s probably no better word for it.

Dave Hauber called the problem disgusting. Actually, there’s probably no better word for it.

The problem is the city’s sewer system overflowing into the road outside Hauber’s Automated Dynamics offices on Front Street near Nott Street.

It happens after particularly heavy rainstorms, said Hauber, the company’s vice president of engineering. He said it happened as recently as two weeks ago.

It’s also a problem the city is working to fix, officials said. A study is under way that is expected to suggest solutions — solutions not expected to be cheap or quick.

And making sure the city follows through will be the state Department of Environmental Conservation, especially in view of the multi-story hotel and apartment complex expected to be built next door at the site of the old Alco locomotive factory.

The city is currently in talks with the DEC over a consent order to make sure the problem is fixed, according to Carl Olsen, city commissioner of general services.

The order would follow another one from 2005, which addressed similar issues. But the problems persist.

The problem is in some of the city’s century-old pipes, Olsen said. During heavy rains, excess water gets into the sewer system through cracks or illegal sump pump connections to the system, increasing the volume three-fold. Niskayuna has had a similar problem with its District 6 sewer system, though with different effects. Niskayuna has also been working with the DEC to get its problem fixed.

In Schenectady, the problem focuses at Nott and Front streets, as the sewer pipes carrying waste from the city and some surrounding areas converge there on their way to the wastewater treatment plant on Anthony Street, off Maxon Road Extension.

Overwhelmed with rain water, the system backs up at that point, sending the sewage up onto the street. There is also a release there that can send the untreated overflow into the Mohawk River. Eliminating that release point — and the overflow into the street — will be the focus of the effort, Olsen said.

The current study will suggest ways to fix the problem. Among the possibilities, Olsen said, are addressing how the rainwater gets into the system, or increasing the capacity.

Olsen declined to estimate how much the whole effort would cost.

“It’s not going to be cheap, I can tell you that,” Olsen said.

It also is going to take time, he said.

With the earlier DEC consent order, the city made strides by reducing the discharge of some untreated waste into the river to two or three times per year. Previously, it would happen six or more times in a year.

For Hauber at Automated Dynamics, whatever is done can’t happen too soon.

The last overflow happened June 14. Even after being cleaned up, the effects could be smelled days later.

What angers him the most, he said, is the impact the overflows have on his business and his customers. Automated Dynamics manufactures composite structures to be applied in such industries as automotive, defense or aerospace.

“There was sewage all over here,” Hauber explained, describing seeing everything that goes with it. “I had a customer come in and he walked through the sewage up into our building to meet us.”

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