Sewer plant hit with $12K in DEC fines

JOHNSTOWN — The state Department of Environmental Conservation has hit the Gloversville-Johnstown Wastewater Treatment Facility with violations that the sewage treatment plant must pay $12,600 in civil fines related to past odors.

Facility Manager Wallace Arnold said today that both cities have already signed off on the violations. He said the sewer plant on Friday sent out its response to an Order on Consent to DEC.

He said the violations are because of ongoing odor problems the facility has had related to start up of its Contact Absorption Settling Thickening system, or CAST system process.

“We’ve had the odors off and on,” Arnold stated.

The sewage treatment plant several years ago underwent an $8 million CAST upgrade to treat waste byproducts mainly from two Johnstown Industrial Park companies — cheese manufacturer Euphrates Inc. and yogurt manufacturer Fage USA. But the upgraded, more modern CAST system had been unusable in the early years because it generated strong odors in the sewer plant area.

Officials said the CAST system spawned unacceptable, rotten-egg odors at the plant, which spread into parts of Johnstown. But the CAST system is needed to process large amounts of whey, especially from top sewer plant customer FAGE USA.

Arnold said that when the facility started up the CAST system – going back to August and September 2015 – the odors were widespread throughout the plant area of Johnstown. He said the odors continued quite a bit for two years, but in recent years a chemical process has been introduced to help mitigate some of the odor.

DEC in January first gave the sewer plant permission to use potassium permanganate to help alleviate odors. But the state put the following conditions on the facility: Continue WET testing, notify DEC if odor complaints are received, provide a report detailing the effectiveness of the pilot project, and provide for an engineering study to resolve odor issues if the pilot project is unsuccessful.

Officially, the DEC found the sewer plant in violation of its State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, or SPDES Permit.

An Order on Consent was recently received by the Gloversville-Johnstown Joint Sewer Board from DEC for the violations. The order indicated the sewer plant not only committed SPDES violations, but violations of state Environmental Conservation Law.

The order indicates the $12,600 in civil penalties must be paid this way: $6,300 within one year of the Order on Consent date; and $6,300 within two years of the Order on Consent date.

Arnold said he’s not sure at this point how the civil fines will be paid for, but must likely they will be derived from “part of the budget.”

The sewer board recently authorized board Chairman Wrandy Siarkowski to execute the Order on Consent, and seek additional signatures from the cities of Gloversville and Johnstown.

Siarkowski couldn’t be reached this morning for comment.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.

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