NISKAYUNA — The Town Board on Tuesday voted to sign a contract that will bring liquid soda and soft beverage wastes to the town’s wastewater treatment plant on Whitmyer Drive.
The board authorized Supervisor Yasmine Syed to contract with VIM Recyclers LP of Auroroa, Ill., and accept delivery of wastes from the Pepsi Bottling Group in Latham.
The prospect of wastewater imported from outside businesses became a controversial issue for some during 2018. Whitmyer homeowners complained that extra work at the plant would bring extra truck traffic to the residential street. They were also worried about trucks moving too fast and making the street unsafe.
Residents — including town Planning Board Chairman Kevin Walsh — spoke against contract approval during the meeting’s privilege of the floor session.
Syed said the contract, intended as a pilot program, will be worth about $60,000 in revenue for the town. The supervisor, who abstained from a vote to borrow $17.5 million to pay for plant upgrades in March 2018, abstained from Tuesday’s contract vote.
“It carries on with how I voted when it came up for bonding,” said Syed, who at the time said the planning process on the project began before she took office in January 2018. “There were some questions that several residents here brought up tonight and they were some of the same questions I brought up when this came up for bonding. I have to, as a supervisor, take those concerns to heart.”
Councilwoman Denise Murphy McGraw spoke for the project.
“I think it’s very fair,” she said. “I think we listened to the neighbors. I understand what the supervisor is saying. It is a very difficult thing, we never want to make neighbors feel uncomfortable or unappreciated. We listened to them, we took that into account in this contract.
“It is very mild, it is between 15,000 and 25,000 gallons a week,” McGraw added, “which may be less than one trip a day. We regulate the hours they can come.”
McGraw spoke against Syed’s vote to abstain.
“I’m going to be asking for a legal opinion from the town attorney about whether we can abstain on votes all the time,” she said. “I was just under the impression we can’t do that.”
Councilman John Della Ratta said the wastewater upgrade project was going on when he joined the board in 2014.
“There’s a substantial amount of bonding on this project, but it really has very little to do with acceptance of organic waste,” he said. “The vast majority on this project has to do with the improvements that we made to the wastewater treatment plant that we would have had to make anyway … this was a very small part of the overall package.”
Della Ratta added that the town will have a treatment plant that will generate its own power and provide a revenue stream. “And a very substantial revenue stream at that,” he said.
The town will be able to consider other contracts for wastewater treatment for more revenue.
Amy Howansky, a Whitmyer resident who was among the most vocal of the wastewater project critics, said after the meeting she understood the importance of the plan.
“It’s going to benefit a lot of people,” she said. “We’re just not benefiting from it so I am disappointed that we’re going to continue to suffer with truck noises.”
Earlier on Tuesday, members of the Town Board, other town officials and Pepsi representatives toured the wastewater treatment plant.
System officials said Pepsi waste fluid eventually will reach a 205,000-gallon equalization tank and later move to a covered anaerobic “digester,” in which microorganisms operating in a zero-oxygen environment break down the biodegradable, sugar-heavy material.
Methane will be harvested from the process and, through combustion, used to manufacture electricity that will power the plant.
Matt Yetto, Niskayuna’s superintendent of water, sewer and engineering, said the town will be treating Pepsi products that have passed expiration dates. In addition to soda, the bottler also produces water products, iced tea and energy drinks.