Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Sewer to Schuyler: Passing Costs to Utica Residents?

Oneida County wants to lend a 'helping hand' to its sister County of Herkimer -- but will Oneida County make residents of the City of Utica pay for its 'generosity'?

If Herkimer County chooses a site in Schuyler for its new jail it will need sewer services from the Oneida County Part County Sewage Treatment Plant.
Oneida County Board of Legislators Republican Majority Leader James D’Onofrio said he would like to help Herkimer County by providing the sewer. . . . “and it would be a revenue enhancer.”
But while Oneida County looks forward to enhancing its revenue, what will be the cost and who will pay?
The DEC expressed some concerns about a year ago with the capacity of the Oneida County Sewer District Treatment Plant in Utica . . .
Oneida County officials pooh-pooh the capacity issue, but remember, these are the same people who are now under a Consent Order from NYSDEC due to their mismanagement of the sewer system. Can we accept what these people say at face value?

Simply put: There IS an issue of system capacity. The treatment plant in Utica was sized to treat not only sewage from separate sanitary waste lines, but also a diluted waste-storm water combination from the old combined sewers owned by the City of Utica (maintenance of which is paid for by Utica residents in their separate city sewer charges). This dilute waste takes up a LOT of treatment capacity, however this scheme was permitted by the Clean Water Act in recognition that it would be impracticable to eliminate combined sewers in old cities such as Utica. [See last summer's Consent Order Primer series of posts].

If Utica were made to remove storm water from its combined system, it would free up a lot of capacity that could be redistributed to other areas . . . such as Schuyler, New Hartford and other suburbs.

Oneida County intends to do exactly this. In his November 2006 letter to the DEC complaining about requirements of DEC's proposed permit, the OC Commissioner of Water Quality and Pollution Control commented (p7):
"It is the County's position that the City of Utica and the NYSDEC should be exploring other alternatives for treating CSO's rather than sending them to the WPCP. The capacity of the WPCP should be reserved for treating sanitary wastes rather than combined wastes"
It would seem, then, that Oneida County intends to make Uticans pay to remove storm water from their combined sewers to create more treatment capacity that the County would be able to sell to others -- such as Schuyler.

Why should Utica residents pay to free up treatment capacity for Schuyler's (or New Hartford's) use?

New areas to be added onto the system should be required to pay the cost of creating the treatment capacity that they will require -- whether that capacity is created by adding onto the treatment plant, or by removing Utica's storm water from the system.


onjeesun said...

The other part of this article that caught my eye is where it states that Herkimer Co. will be using Oneida Co.'s water. Fact is the water comes from Hinckley Reservoir, 2/3's of which is IN Herkimer Co.- and the majority of the water which fills Hinckley comes from and through Herkimer Co. too! I'm not surprised that the MVWA has seen to it that this increasingly valuable asset now belongs to Oneida Co., who is graciously sharing it with Herkimer Co.. Reminds me of the many examples of politicians doling out "free" money for schools or economic stimulus. How can you give something to someone that's already their's to begin with?

Anonymous said...

It makes sense to me, Strike, which is why it probably won't happen.