Seneca Falls eyes water and sewer upgrades

On Monday afternoon immediately following the appointment of two new members in Seneca Falls — the Town Board began looking at water and sewer upgrades. John Condino and Peter Baker, of Baron & Loguidice Engineers, gave a presentation to the board on upgrades that would be required in Seneca Falls, as well as Seneca County in the coming years.The overwhelming problem that Seneca Fall is facing — much like the rest of New York is experiencing — is a failing infrastructure that has resulted from decades of aging. The Infrastructure Report Card, which grades statewide infrastructure and makes suggestions based on current trends and spending, gave New York an overall grade of C- in 2015. People often forget though that infrastructure extends far beyond the roads, bridges, and waterways they see and interact with on a daily basis. Things like wastewater treatment infrastructure, drinking water infrastructure, and solid waste infrastructure are all a part of the overall grade. Perhaps unsurprisingly, wastewater and drinking water infrastructure received two of the lowest overall grades in New York last year.Wastewater infrastructure received a D on the 2015 report card, which was the second-lowest grade in the entire report. It scored better than our bridges, which are frequently thought of as some of the worst pieces of infrastructure in the state. Wastewater infrastructure was only beat out by New York’s roadways, which received the worst mark in the state. Speaking to the problems in New York when it comes to wastewater infrastructure the report read in part, “Aging infrastructure has become a critical problem for the state – 1 in every 4 of New York’s wastewater facilities are operating beyond their 30-year useful life expectancy, wastewater treatment plant equipment also averages 30+ years old, and 30% of the 22,000 underground miles of sewers are 60+ years old and operating beyond their useful lives.”Baker and Condino pointed out that many of the upgrades in Seneca Falls were needed due to an aging infrastructure. They pointed out that many of the items being talked about for upgrades were on the order of 30 to 40 years old. As the Infrastructure Report Card pointed out, much of the infrastructure in New York State that is need of repair or upgrade has reached that point due to age. The presenters said that many of the pieces being discussed had been originally implemented between the 1960s and 1980s.The presentation included three key projects in the Town of Seneca Falls and two projects that would be happening within Seneca County. Seneca Falls Projects– Route 414 Sanitary Sewer Upgrades- Kingdom Road Pump Station/Force Main Upgrades- Sanitary Sewer Infiltration/Inflow ImprovementsSeneca County Projects– del Lago Resort & Casino – Route 318 Sanitary Sewer CorridorThe overwhelming tone of most of the upgrades necessary in Seneca Falls, and even the county as a whole, reflect the need for greater capacity. It’s a common theme throughout the state, but right in Seneca Falls — many upgrades — like increasing capacity at pump stations, updating pump stations, implementing new force main, eliminating stormwater connections to the sanitary sewer, and fixing leaks in the sanitary sewer system all speak to an increased volume.Increased volume and an aging system aren’t just impacting the sanitary systems, either. Two major drinking water projects are expected to cost the Town of Seneca Falls $800,000 and $2,028,000 respectively.The Auburn Road water tower requires an interior renovation, an active mixing system installed, and also needs an exterior overcoat and minor exterior repairs. These updates will ensure that the tower’s repairs are kept minimal and that they will not become significant — and more expensive. The expected cost for this project is $800,000 and will be the first tower that the Town of Seneca Falls addresses. This series of upgrades is expected to begin later this spring.The VanRennsalaer tower is the more costly of the two projects. With a price tag of $2,028,000 this tower requires the same updates as the Auburn Road tower, as well as an exterior blast to allow for repairs and resurfacing. This tower is the more urgent of the two, with Seneca Falls officials pointing out in 2015 that work on this would have to begin by 2017 in order to save it.Condino and Baker pointed out in their presentation that these two items would be executed and both assets would be preserved.To put the upgrades Seneca Falls is working to carry out in perspective, the Infrastructure Report Card pointed out that “For every dollar needed only 20 cents is provided to clean New York’s water.” While that looks a at a very specific point in the process — funding is a major issue throughout the state. The 2015 report also suggests the focus needs to be on modernizing, making long-lasting changes, expediting delivery of these infrastructure projects, innovating along the way — and asking plenty of questions. In Seneca Falls it is evident that residents are not being challenged by simple neglect; they are being challenged by aging neglect.

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