The Saratoga County Sewer District is backing away from plans to build a second sewage treatment plant in the northern part of the county.
County sewer commissioners voted Wednesday to drop plans to start immediate engineering design of the $64 million facility and to instead look at other alternatives to address treatment needs in the Saratoga Springs area.
“We’re going to take a little deep breath,” Chairman William E. Davis said at the commission’s monthly meeting at the county sewage treatment plant in Halfmoon.
The commission’s action follows growing questions about the need for a second plant, questions that started this spring when engineers considering bidding on the design work were skeptical of the need for it.
Officials said Wednesday’s action doesn’t mean the plan is dead. The sewer district last year paid nearly $100,000 for 16 acres at the county landfill site in Northumberland to serve as a future plant site.
The idea of a northern plant has been discussed for several years, and the district has spent at least $160,000 in the last two years on engineering work and land acquisition.
“This doesn’t cancel the concept of the northern plant,” Davis said.
But instead of pursuing the plan full-bore, district officials will look at other ways to meet sewage capacity needs in the Saratoga Springs area.
The roughly 13 million gallons per day generated in Saratoga Springs and Wilton now goes to the Halfmoon plant. However, the county’s main line between Northway Exit 15 and Route 67 in Ballston is nearing full capacity, which could limit future growth in and around Saratoga.
One way to address the issue would be to divert waste from Saratoga Springs and Wilton to a new plant. Another would be to construct a new trunk line between the city and the Halfmoon plant, which would almost certainly be much cheaper. It will be among the options to be examined in a new study.
The capacity of the Halfmoon plant was recently doubled to 43.4 million gallons per day at a cost of $52 million and is currently running at only about half that capacity.
“I think after a closer look, we have the capacity here,” said Chuck Marshall, a Saratoga Springs representative on the commission. “If it’s a capacity in the pipe issue, then deal with the pipe.”
The commission directed a request for an engineering study of a second trunk line be prepared. Executive Director Chad Cooke said a study could look at routes for a second line and also at some moves to make the Halfmoon plant operate more efficiently. One idea suggested at the meeting that Cooke said hadn’t been considered would be to separate the sewage flows from Wilton and Saratoga Springs into different trunk lines.
The change in priorities Wednesday came by unanimous vote.
“This approach is much more wholistic and puts ratepayers first,” said commission member Robert Ostapczuk of Wilton, who chairs the committee studying the potential second plant.
Davis said he’s also concerned about the cost of a second plant, given the growing repair bills the district is incurring each year as a treatment system built in the 1970s ages.
“We’re talking a lot of money, and I want us to have a healthy reserve, because things break down,” he said after the meeting.