More than 31.6 million gallons of water was pumped into the Rotterdam Corporate Park last year, but no one seems to know exactly where the majority of it went.
The amount used — about enough to fill 48 Olympic-sized swimming pools — resulted in an $14,732 water bill from the town to the park’s owner, the Galesi Group. And because the town bases sewer service rates on water usage, Galesi was also assessed a staggering $127,723 sewage bill.
Though the park has plenty of large tenants — such as Railex USA and Price Chopper’s frozen foods distribution center — none of the companies leasing space have high water demands. The amount of water metered at the park from the town’s Water District 5 in 2012 was more than twice what was registered in 2011 and nearly nine times the amount recorded in 2010.
“The number is astronomical,” town Supervisor Harry Buffardi said of the 2012 water usage. “It’s obviously more than a leaky faucet somewhere.”
The problem apparently came to light after Galesi contested its utility bill last year, when the town assessed the company $3,531 for water and $58,160 for sewage. After a year of nonpayment, unpaid water and sewer assessments are forwarded to Schenectady County for collection through property taxes, in accordance with town code.
Town officials met with the company to discuss the problem Tuesday. Deputy Supervisor Wayne Calder said the meeting was among several the town has had with the company in an effort to get to the bottom of the high usage.
“Things haven’t changed over there to a degree that would have caused this that we’re aware of,” he said following the meeting.
The only thing clear right now is that the town’s sewage treatment plant on West Campbell Road isn’t contending with tens of millions of gallons of sewage flowing from the corporate park. Calder said the degree of effluent associated with that level of water usage would almost assuredly cause capacity problems for the plant.
“It would be an issue,” he said.
Part of the issue could fall on the aging infrastructure at the sprawling 245-acre park. Parts of the park and its infrastructure date back to the early 20th century, when the property served as an Army depot.
David Buicko, Galesi’s chief operating officer, said it’s entirely possible some of the water use recorded by the town simply leaked from pipes and returned to the underlying aquifer from which it was pumped. He said there’s also a chance the town’s meters are incorrectly gauging the usage or that another user has been inadvertently tied into the complex network of piping.
“There’s a variety of scenarios,” he said.
Buicko said Galesi’s engineers are now trying to find the source of the inflated readings. He remains confident Galesi and the town will reach an amicable solution to resolve the issue or any overpayment discovered.
“We want to pay our fair share,” he said. “We don’t want to subsidize things we don’t use.”
In the event the company is found to have overpaid its water and sewage bill, either the town or county could be responsible for a refund. Unpaid water and sewage bills later collected by the county are forwarded back to Rotterdam, but it is unclear whether this has occurred with any of Galesi’s bills.
“As with any overpayment, based on error, pursuant to court order or stipulated settlement, it would be up to the municipal entity receiving the overpayment to refund that portion of the bill that has been overpaid,” Town Attorney Kate McGuirl said in an email.
Rotterdam may also begin monitoring the flow of sewage leaving the park so future errors don’t occur.
Buffardi stressed the discussions with Galesi have been positive so far and both parties are hoping to reach an amicable solution.
“They are our second largest taxpayer,” he said. “They are certainly good neighbors to us.”