Amsterdam Common Council to vote on sewer system upgrade bids

Johnstown, Rensselaer companies submit low bids in $5.5M project

If all goes according to plan with the city of Amsterdam’s $5.5 million sewer upgrade project, City Engineer Mike Clark says the average city resident won’t see any effect from it at all.  

“That’s the way any good sewer system should work, you won’t know that it’s there if it works right,” Clark said.

When the city’s combined stormwater and wastewater sewer system hasn’t worked right over the past seven years, the public and New York state have noticed it, as overflows of the system have resulted in tens of millions of gallons of raw or partially treated sewage being spilled into the Mohawk River.

On Tuesday the Common Council will vote on bids received for upgrades to the city’s West Side and South Side sewer pump stations.

The low bid for the general construction work at the stations was CFI Contracting, from Johnstown, which bid $1.259 million.

Clark said the South Side construction will include a new bypass valve to allow the system to pump around emergency blockages, enabling the waste water to get to the treatment plant without having to overflow into the river.

The council will also vote on a resolution to accept the low bidder for the electrical work for the project, which was Rensselaer-based Stilsing Electric, with a bid of $225,000.

“The electrical part is going to include three new 60-horsepower engines, new check valves, replacement of all of the header-pipes and plug valves to isolate each one, new variable frequency drives for each, and a new backup emergency generator, to replace the one we have, which is aging,” Clark said.

This is the second batch of contracts the Common Council has approved recently as part of the sewer upgrade. On July 21 the council approved a less expensive upgrade project for the city’s Erie and Hoover street pump stations. The council approved Borderline Excavation and Fence, of St. Johnsville, which bid $249,000 to do the general construction job for Erie and Hoover, and Stilsing Electric’s bid of $108,000 to do the electric job for those stations.

“I think these bids have been spot on, they’re right within a percent of the engineers’ estimates, and actually slightly under,” Clark said. “I consider these good prices. We have the funding for it, and it’s a much-needed project, especially the West Side and South Side pump stations.”

Engineering firm Prime AE Group of N.Y. has designed the plans for the upgrades and has signed off on all of the bids solicited for the work, one of the requirements for the state grant used to pay for the project.

Clark said the upgrade project is aimed at coming into compliance with a consent order from New York State DEC, as well as the city’s combined sewer system’s master plan for limiting the number of overspill events.

“These projects are being driven by the requirements of the long term control plan to reduce the number of combined sewer overflows,” he said.

The sewer upgrade project has been a long time coming and the result of a series of major sewer leaks from Amsterdam’s system.

In 2013 mechanical failures in the city’s West Side pump station resulted in 24 million gallons of raw sewage spilling into the river, an incident that resulted in a $68,750 civil penalty under a DEC consent order issued in 2015. The city ultimately only paid $13,750 of the fine when DEC agreed to waive most of the penalty in exchange for the city accepting responsibility and continuing to work toward improvements to prevent future incidents.

In 2016 Amsterdam was awarded a $5.5 million interest-free loan from the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation [EFC] to engage in major upgrades. The money from this loan is being used for the upgrade work starting this year.

In the four-year time period since Amsterdam got the loan the leaks from the city’s system continued.

Clark said combined sewer systems like Amsterdam’s are required to send information to New York state for its NY-Alert system within two hours of a major spill.  Sewage leaks across New York state are reported at

“The general public doesn’t normally monitor that, but they certainly can,” Clark said.

These are the major sewage leaks reported by the NY-Alert system since Amsterdam was first approved for the $5.5 million EFC loan:

  • On Oct 19, 2016, a 10-gallon-per minute sewage leak with an unknown cause began at the city’s 216 Forest Ave. station. This leak continued for approximately 2 years.
  • In July 2016, a malfunction in the alarm system used by the city’s westside pump station resulted in 517,153 gallons of partially treated sewage spilling into the Mohawk River. Then a reported power outage at the city’s Swan Street pump station.
  • On Dec. 22, 2016, two sewer spills occurred in one week, one of 714 gallons of untreated sewage from the city’s Swan pump station on the eastside and a 1 million gallon leak from the same station on Dec. 20, 2016, which city officials at the time blamed on a power failure, although National Grid officials at the time reported no record of a power outage.
  • On May 26, 2017, a leak started at the city’s pump station at 46 Swan St. due to water pressure, and 160,524 gallons of untreated sewage was spilled into the river.  
  • On June 5, 2017, rainfall resulted in major sewage overflows for Amsterdam’s system, resulting in millions of raw sewage to overflow from the city’s 214 West Main St. and 46 Swan St. pump stations. Rain overflows would lead to hundreds of thousands of additional gallons of raw sewage from those stations from June to July 2017.
  • On July 1, 2017, a broken pipe at 14 River St. led to a 1 million gallon leak of raw sewage.
  • On Aug. 1, 2017, a blocked pipe at 46 Swan St, led to a 1.5 million gallon spill of raw sewage. .
  • On Oct. 2, 2017, low voltage to some bypass pumps at 46 Swan St. resulted in a 737,712 gallon leak of raw sewage.
  • On Feb. 22, 2018, a pump failure at the 46 Swan St. station resulted in a 1 million gallon spill of raw sewage.
  • In July of 2018, heavy rainfall would result in approximately 2 million gallons of raw sewage overflowing into the river.
  • On May 16, 2019, a broken pipe at 27-31 Main St. resulted in millions of gallons of sewage being dumped into the Chuctanunda Creek, prompting the city to take out a $200,000 interest-free loan from the state Environmental Facilities Corporation to repair the leak.

Clark said he believes the staff of the city’s sewer system have done a good job limiting the number of sewage spills over the past two years.
“But you can only do so much with aging equipment, so this project will update the two aging links in the sewer system,” Clark said. “Some of our pumps right now are more than 25 years old, far older than expected length of life.”
Clark said he anticipates there will likely be some money left over from the $5.5 million interest-free loan from the EFC left after the work is completed at the four pump stations. He said he will have a meeting with the Prime AE Group and City Controlleer Matt Agresta and together they will decide how to use the remainder of the funds.

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