DEC's discharge mandate to cost Hornell millions

Bob Clark

Does Hornell need to spend $6 million to make the wastewater treatment plant more eco-friendly?

According to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, possibly.

According to Richard Dunning, the chief operator of the city Water Pollution Control Plant, New York is in a consortium with other states in the Chesapeake Bay water system, which has ruled that nitrogen levels in the watershed need to be mitigated.

The way to clean up the city’s load output, Dunning said, is to have a $9 million capital project at the wastewater treatment plant, and spend an additional $283,000 annually to operate it.

“We’ll go from a $600,000 O&M budget that we administer to an $800,000 budget,” he said.

And, according to Dunning, the impact on the environment will be negligible.

Of the nutrient loads in the river, about 10 percent come from wastewater treatment, Dunning said. About 80 percent comes from agricultural and forest areas, over which there is little control.

“It’s only going to remove our percentage of that 10 percent,” Dunning said. “We’re being asked to clean up 10 percent, and the other 80 percent is seemingly being ignored.”

He added other municipal water systems along the Canisteo River, including Canisteo, Bath and Erwin, are planning to fight the mandates.

Hornell Mayor Shawn Hogan said most of the pollution in the Chesapeake Bay comes from downstream, saying if the measurements are taken on the Susquehanna River at Sayre, Pa. — where the river turns south — the multi-state consortium would probably re-focus its efforts to reduce nitrogen in the water.

“If they took the measurements there, they’d find we already meet our river emissions levels,” Hogan said, adding the city did a study in 2006 to see how much the upgrades would cost.

“That’s $6 million in 2006 construction dollars,” he said. “That’s almost $9 million today.”

In other business, the commissioners:

l Formally approved Mitch Cornish as the assistant public works superintendent.

According to Hogan, Cornish has been working in that capacity for some time, but according to Civil Service laws, he needed to take a test for that position. Cornish scored a 90-percent grade on the test. Dunning also took the test and received a 70.

“It’s nice to know we have two guys on staff here who passed the test,” Hogan said.

l Heard an update on the East Avenue repaving project and the River Street bridge replacement.

According to Cornish, the East Avenue project is ahead of schedule, with most of the work done on the southbound lane wrapping up. The River Street bridge project also is ahead of schedule, with steel work scheduled to be done by July 20. The bridge is expected to be open by mid to late August, up a few weeks from initial Labor Day opening.

The Evening Tribune