Amsterdam replacing wastewater plant systems

Wastewater facility on Quist Road in Amsterdam.

Wastewater facility on Quist Road in Amsterdam.

AMSTERDAM — The Common Council awarded a $137,000 contract to General Control Systems Inc. this week to replace the outdated control and data monitoring systems currently serving the city’s wastewater treatment plant.

Kevin Gorman, chief operator of the wastewater treatment plant, informed city officials earlier this year that it would be necessary to replace the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition system used to monitor and operate the wastewater treatment plant and activities at each of the city’s pump stations.

The existing system’s aging hardware is equipped with Windows 7, which has gone unsupported since last year, posing a potential security risk for the city. The city hired Prime AE Group for $22,000 in May to design the needed system before the project was sent out to public bid.

General Control Systems submitted the lowest bid at $137,000 in response to a request for proposals and the Common Council approved a resolution awarding the project to the contractor on Tuesday.

The work will involve a full system upgrade with new computers and software at the wastewater treatment plant’s main office and each of the pump stations. The new system will include advanced monitoring capabilities that will collect data in real time from each of the city’s pump stations that can be viewed at the wastewater treatment facilities or remotely.

If any issues related to the wastewater treatment system trigger an alarm under the new system, city staffers will be able to review real time data and assess problems before arriving on-site. Under the current alert system, the scope of any issues cannot be fully assessed until staffers respond in-person.

City officials are enthusiastic about the improvements the SCADA upgrade project will introduce at the wastewater treatment plant after seeing the impact of the same type of monitoring and control system at the water treatment plant that was also designed by Prime AE Group and installed by General Control Systems.

“We need to have that kind of control, that kind of monitoring system in place so that with problems that may occur, we catch them before they do occur. I’m thrilled that we’re doing the SCADA project,” Mayor Michael Cinquanti said.

The city originally planned to pay for the project through contingency funds, but officials now plan to cover the cost of the upgraded system through a portion of the $975,000 in federal coronavirus relief aid the city will receive this fiscal year through the American Rescue Plan Act.

City officials have been awaiting guidance and seeking clarification from the federal government to determine how to spend the relief funding that can only be directed toward specific uses.

Eligible spending categories include supporting public health response, addressing negative economic impacts, replacing public sector revenue loss, premium pay for essential workers, water and sewer infrastructure and broadband infrastructure. A fact sheet from the U.S. Department of the Treasury notes that restrictions apply to the eligible uses.

“It’s very vague what they’re allowing,” City Controller Matthew Agresta said. “There is a document that at this point is what we are using to govern what we can use the money from the federal government for.”

Officials have learned that ARPA funding may be applied to projects that would be eligible for funding through the state Environmental Facilities Corp. Agresta is confident the city can use the federal funding for the wastewater treatment plant upgrades given that the SCADA system project previously completed at the water treatment facility was funded through an EFC grant.

“In my opinion, there is no reason this wouldn’t qualify as proper use of the funding,” Agresta said.

While the city is still mulling plans for the remaining federal funds, Cinquanti highlighted the use of the relief aid toward the project as a benefit to taxpayers that will allow the city to avoid borrowing or using contingency funds toward the needed control and monitoring system upgrades.

“ARPA funding comes with some strings that are attached and we are trying to untie those strings,” Cinquanti said. “It’s just more money that we are able to use for the infrastructure of the city that we will not have to spend the tax levy or water fees or anything else on. It’s a good thing, I’m happy about that.”

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