Andes Wastewater Treatment Plant woes continue

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By Pauline Liu
With weeks to go before the Town of Andes and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) hope to strike a deal to overhaul of the town’s wastewater treatment plant, the facility’s filtration system appears to be on borrowed time.

One of the two microfiltration units at the plant has broken down twice since July. The second breakdown occurred only a week ago.

At the regularly scheduled Andes Town Board meeting last Tuesday night, Town Supervisor Marty Donnelly explained to the standing room only crowd of more than 30, that the microfiltration unit “went down.” He proceeded to read a statement to the audience, explaining what happened to the unit in July. “On July 2nd, Micro Unit #2 broke a fitting and water ended up in the electric cabinet shorting out the machine’s transformer,” he read. “Plastic has been wrapped around both micro filtration units to prevent water from spraying, when fittings break.”  

The second breakdown, which occurred last Monday, was confirmed by Delaware Operations, the Oneonta-based company that is contracted to run the plant.

Line ruptured
“On August 8th we experienced another line rupture, which required Unit #2 to be taken out of service overnight,” explained Technical/Safety Director John Moffett of Delaware Operations. “These line failures occur due to the high operating pressures of this type of system. Unit #1 was fully operational during the time Unit #2 was off line, meaning the facility continued to meet the discharge permit parameters.”

DEC officials have been notified of the continuing problems. “The Andes wastewater treatment plant has no current violations,” explained DEC Public Information Officer Rick Georgeson. “We did receive notice of a broken fitting on August 9 on the Microfiltration Unit #2, but that was repaired within a day or two and did not result in any violations.”

The plant was originally owned and approved by the Village of Andes, which dissolved even before the plant opened in 2004. The facility has a long history of problems.

Town took over
The town, which was forced to take ownership of the plant after the village dissolved, has maintained that the facility was not designed or built properly in the first place. The magnitude of the plant’s flaws came to light in 2006, when heavy rains caused the system to fail for two days, from September 30- October 1. The DEC found the plant to be in violation of its environmental conservation laws for spilling more than 350,000 gallons of partially treated raw sewage per day into the Tremperskill Creek, after the system became overwhelmed by floodwaters.  The plant was not built with a storm retention tank.

Officials estimate that costs to overhaul the facility could cost be as much as $2.6 million. The town and DEP are continuing to hold talks about installing a new wastewater treatment system. “Currently DEP and DEC are reviewing the facility plan and like all projects, there are a number of channels which need to be cleared before the project can move ahead,” explained Delaware Operation’s John Moffett. “The better the review the better the project. No one can afford or wants a failure of the new system.”