NISKAYUNA – The town of Niskayuna is waiting for approval from the state Department of Environmental Conservation to begin processing fats, oils and greases at its multi-million dollar wastewater treatment plant with the goal of generating revenue.
“With every different substance we have to get DEC approval,” said town Supervisor Yasmine Syed.
The town bonded for a $22 million upgrade of its wastewater treatment plant. The upgrade allowed the plant to accept “high strength waste” such as soda water, food cooking oils and other organic materials that produce gas. The gas would be used to power the plant and the town would be able to make money through a tipping fee it charged companies to treat their waste, Syed said.
She said the town can charge more for the fats, oils and greases than it can for soda water materials.
“The more organic waste we treat, the higher the savings will be,” she said.
She said Energy Systems Group, an energy services provider, would find those companies to contract with the town. The plan was supposed to bring in at least $350,000 a year for the town.
However, that money has yet to come to fruition.
In 2019, the town budgeted for $208,000 in revenue from the project, but only generated $1,111. The town used reserves to offset the revenue it didn’t realize, Syed said. In 2020 the town only collected $238 of the $208,000 it budgeted for. That year it offset the lack of revenue by raising residents’ sewer rates. Syed said the fee increase “shouldn’t be a repeated practice” and that if the town doesn’t receive enough revenue this year it would need to use reserves again to cover the difference.
The town has budgeted $250,000 in revenue from the facility for 2021.
Syed said everything comes down to DEC approval.
“I think nobody thought it was going to be a long process,” she said.
The town piloted the treatment of soda water from Pepsi in 2019 to show the DEC the plant did what it was upgraded to do, said Matt Yetto, the superintendent of water, sewer and engineering for the town.
But now the town must wait for the DEC to approve the treatment of fats, oils and greases.
“The hurdle is just getting over the types,” Yetto said.
He said once the DEC gives its approval the town can begin accepting those substances from various companies and begin processing it.
“The timeframe for DEC’s review process depends on the nature of wastewater discharge, if all required information is submitted by the town and engineer, and if pilot studies are required,” said Regina Willis, a spokesperson for the DEC in an email.
Energy Systems Group could not be reached for comment.
Syed said the town has saved approximately $100,000 in natural gas and electricity costs from the upgrades at the facility.