Supervisors argue over sewer in Seneca County; expansion considered to south end

If the tone of debate around water and sewer in Seneca County were going to be labeled, ‘divisive’ would be the only term appropriate.

At Tuesday’s Public Works standing committee meeting, that very topic took center stage.

The County is currently working out a plan to deal with issues uncovered by New York State. The problem, per the DEC, is that wastewater discharge limits are being violated — since phosphorus levels were modified.

The specific item on the table for debate on Tuesday involved expanding a preliminary engineering report, which was sought to correct the violations identified by New York State. The PER would effectively be the plan for the county moving forward, and is due back to the DEC by August 2018.

Some frustrated supervisors wanted to see the DEC present at an upcoming meeting.

“There’s no reason why Barton & Loguidice can’t be pulled into this discussion,” barked Hayssen, after his initial remarks echoed off the walls of the board room. He requested that the supervisors move to expand the preliminary engineering report to include an expansion of municipal sewer service to those in the southern end of the county.

Altogether, the Varick Supervisor was referring to a project, which would involve six towns and three villages. Compared to the north end of the county, the southern portion is an “underserved” region — with aging infrastructure that will require work down the road.

County Manager John Sheppard agreed that ‘taking a look’ at sewer expansion is a viable idea — but noted that tying it together to DEC corrective measures is a bad idea.

Sheppard said that failure to complete the required DEC correctives could result in significant fines. “More than $37,000 a day, per violation,” explained the visibly frustrated county manager.

In his own words, the County Manager was frustrated at the County’s inability to get across the finish line on this project, as it has been subject to serious debate now for several decision cycles.

“Now is the time to do this expanded study while the engineers are looking at the south end. I think bringing sewers to about 500 homes and looking at adding them to Sewer District 2 is feasible,” Hayssen said during the debate.

Preparedness was another issue identified by the supervisors during debate. The room was partially split on how prepared anyone was to bring a request to an engineering firm like B&L for specifics on an expanded sewer service.

To that question, Hayssen said that using water mapping would get the job done.

No official numbers have been formulated to determine any cost associated with creating this ‘compete’ sewer system for the southern end of the county. However, County Manager Sheppard said in broad terms — it could cost upwards of $14 million to complete.

And while the supervisors have reinvigorated a years-long debate, the solution is also years away — even if a plan were signed tomorrow.

The current timeline calls for a engineering report to be completed by August 2018, which is followed by final design and engineering taking place in 2020 — and a fully-operational and compliant system in 2022.

Waterloo Supervisor Gary Westfall argued that the County should be out of the water and sewer business, and that multiple municipalities — like those interested in municipal sewer — should all work together to form a district themselves.

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