Phoenicia, Boiceville sewer projects moving along slowly

By Jay Braman Jr.
A pair of sewer projects in the region is having difficulty moving forward, but supporters of both projects continue to make slow headway. Both projects benefit from funds supplied by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which has committed millions to build such systems in the watershed after local officials demanded the funds back in the 1990s.
But 1990s dollars don’t seem to stretch as far these days. Residents of Boiceville approved a sewer project for their Town of Olive hamlet last year, the system was designed and sent out to bid, but Boiceville residents found out last month that the $10 million earmarked for the project just wouldn’t do it.
Last week the Catskill Watershed Corporation’s (CWC) Board of Directors solved the problem. They amended the previously approved construction block grant for the Boiceville wastewater treatment plant and collection system, according to CWC spokeswoman Diane Galusha.
“The amendment added $2.2 million to the original grant of $10,078,000 because bids for the Ulster County project came in higher than anticipated more than two years after it was first designed,” she said.
The job is expected to be awarded at an upcoming meeting of the Olive Town Board, and construction is anticipated in the spring of 2009.
Having a much slower go of things is Phoenicia, just a few miles up the road from Boiceville in the Town of Shandaken. In fact, the majority of Phoenicia residents turned down a sewer plan similar to Boiceville’s because it was thought by most that the businesses in the community couldn’t afford to run it year after year even if the DEP did pay to build it. Phoenicia’s systems would be bigger, and had a price tag of $17.2 million.
Now the town has been investigating alternatives to that original system. This month a feasibility study has been prepared that looks at the use of manmade reed beds to handle much of the treatment, and according to that study it would cost $3 million less to build and $200,000 less per year to operate.
However, with a 150,000 gallon per day capacity, the reed-bed system is significantly smaller than the 195,000 gallon per day treatment plant originally proposed. The smaller system would limit growth in the hamlet.
The reed-bed study is available for viewing online at the Town of Shandaken’s Website. It needs to be okayed by the city, which is now reviewing the study. If the city okays it, then Phoenicia residents get another chance to weigh in.
“It will definitely go to a referendum again,” said Town Supervisor Peter DiSclafani.