NISKAYUNA — The town has taken another step toward getting back in the state's good graces, now that its wastewater treatment plant has begun treating wastewater with ultraviolet light.
For the past 30 years, chlorine has been used to kill viruses and bacteria in the town’s wastewater before it is released into the Mohawk River. The UV light system replaces the chlorine and is part of a multi-step, multi-million dollar overhaul of the aging plant.
Niskayuna has been under state orders of consent for 14 years to improve its treatment of wastewater. It is also under a sewer moratorium, which prohibits additional businesses or residences from hooking into the town’s sewer system.
The town has until next summer to bring its systems into compliance with water pollution. Officials anticipate meeting that deadline, opening the door for developers to propose projects in the town once again.
“The town is still required to meet all of the other requirements contained in the consent order with DEC [Department of Environmental Conservation] and is currently on schedule to meet all of these requirements by 2018," the DEC said in a prepared statement.
Niskayuna started renovations of the Whitmyer Drive water treatment facility earlier this year. To date, those renovations have included the installation of a tank to store water during heavy rainstorms. In the past, such storms overwhelmed the treatment plant and caused some sewage to be discharged into the Mohawk without being fully treated.
The upgrades will increase the plant's processing capacity from 3 million to 3.5 million gallons per day. It will cost $17 million and will be paid for through bonding.
According to the EPA, chlorine is effective and usually the most cost-effective way to treat wastewater. However, it can pose environmental threats to aquatic life.
Ultraviolet disinfection eliminates the need for employees to handle toxic chemicals, and water can be disinfected more quickly. However, “low dosage may not effectively inactivate some viruses, spores and cysts,” and may not be as cost-effective, according to the EPA.
Now that the UV disinfection is in place, work is continuing on other parts of the plant. Additional upgrades include new primary clarifier baffles, activated sludge aeration system and a biogas-driven energy system, along with computerized controls.
“These enhancements will modernize the various mechanical and electrical systems at the plant and afford additional environmental protections for the Mohawk River,” town Supervisor Joe Landry said in a prepared statement.
Rich Pollock, town supervisor of water, sewer and engineering, did not return calls for comment.