Shandaken board to hear presentation on Phoenicia sewer

By Jay Braman Jr.
After months of research and scrutiny, the long-awaited design plan for the Phoenicia Sewer system is at hand.

On Thursday Oct. 20 at 6 p.m. the Shandaken Town Board will convene a special session at town hall in Allaben to give the pubic a chance to see what it is that Lamont Engineering and the Catskill Watershed Corporation (CWC) have come up with.

Both were hired by the town to put an end to the 14-year stalemate in Phoenicia, where one can find an opponent to the sewer project as easily as one can find a supporter. The issue has pitted neighbor against neighbor, caused friction between environmental groups and business owners, and remains a headache for the environmental agencies charged with overseeing such matters. It is hoped that CWC, with the help of Lamont, will once and for all develop a system that is suitable and, most importantly, affordable for the hamlet.

In the past 14 years, no less than five different project plans have surfaced and all have been shot down.

According to Lamont Engineering, which has been studying the five different options, it would cost between $25 million and $30 million to build a system and between $550,000 and $600,000 a year to operate. Those figures, while staggering if the 250 users in the tiny hamlet had to pay all of it, have not yet been broken down by Lamont.

Consultant Henry Lamont notes that the City of New York will pay a substantial chunk of the cost. Exactly how much, and how big of a bag Phoenicia would be left holding, is expected to be revealed on October 20.

At this point, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has committed $17.2 million toward construction of a sewer system. That amount was promised in 2006 when another firm, Delaware Engineering, prepared a plan. That plan was rejected by voters because a majority considered the cost to the hamlet to be too high. It remains unclear whether the city will contribute the full cost of building a system now.

Lamont and his team think the less expensive plans for sewer treatment that his firm was asked to examine were unworkable. No septic maintenance district. No community septic systems, and no alternative options like wetlands to purify sewage.

“We can’t recommend constructed wetlands on its own,” he said. He added that constructed wetlands might be useful in conjunction with a more traditional sewage treatment system.
Regardless, it was surprising to see how close the costs were for all five options. Even a plan to build a pipeline and pump sewage to the city-owned treatment plant in Pine Hill, according to Lamont, is in the same ballpark as a full-blown new system.

Furthermore, Lamont’s plan calls for smaller systems than previously expected. Past estimates of flow rates exceeded 180,000 gallons per day. Lamont said his firm’s research shows a flow of about 162,000 gallons per day.

The Shandaken Town Board will decide whether to accept CWC’s and Lamont’s recommendation, and it is expected to come under scrutiny, especially given the trouble that some are sewer systems experienced during the recent floods.