Sludge disposal costs to rise

T he ripple effect of a potential Environmental Protection Agency fine on the Washington County Sewer District will include increased costs for the village of Granville, officials learned recently.

Appearing at the Jan. 3 meeting of the village board, sewer district executive director Joseph Brilling told the board a capital project will be required to get his facility up to snuff and compliant with EPA requirements cited in the fine notice.

The Kingsbury sewer district facility takes bio solids from wastewater treatment plants and combines them with wood chips, composting the materials to produce fertilizer. The fertilizer is then sold to commercial landscapers as well as the general public.

The potential capital project is expected to cost about $200,000 and the village is responsible for 14 percent of the amount, according to the agreement signed when the facility was created, Brilling said. Granville, Fort Edward and Lake George partnered in the facility with the county when it was constructed in 1998.

The potential fine will not have an effect on the operation of the facility, which will remain open, Brilling said.

In addition to the cost of the project, the per-ton rate Granville pays to dump the bio solids will also increase substantially.

Granville has been paying the same $21-25 per ton rate since 1998; the municipalities recently agreed to go to $45 per ton in the future with an eye toward funding the needed upgrades.

Brilling told the board the rate could more than triple to about $69 per ton. Granville takes about 54 tons of the material to Kingsbury per month, sewer plant manager Dan Williams said.

Williams said the biggest concern for the village was a possible shutdown of the compost facility to make way for the needed upgrades. Any construction down time would mean shipping all of Granville’s bio solids to a landfill in Franklin County.

Because the composting facility was built prior to the implementation of higher wastewater standards, Granville only ships a portion of its solids to Kingsbury for composting; the remainder goes to a landfill at a higher disposal cost.

The cost of the fertilizer also has not risen for the consumer since 1998; despite any future cost increase, Brilling said, he expects the demand to remain high. Selling the fertilizer helps supplement the cost of running the composting facility.

In addition to improving the recording keeping, Brilling said he plans to make improvements to the day-to-day operation of the plant.

“My plan is to have an engineer come in and take a look at the whole operation and offer suggestions on what we can do,” Brilling said. “My number one objective is compliance.”

Mayor Jay Niles and board members questioned how the facility was allowed to get to this point. Niles said the village was only recently made aware there was an issue at the facility.

“We weren’t notified about this; we’re glad you’re here to discuss this with us,” he said.

Brilling explained he had only been in his position for about a year and had spent that time “getting a crash course” learning what should be happening at the facility. As one man tackling a monumental task he was not looking back, he said. “I’m much more concerned about how we’re going to get out of this,” he said.

Among the issues Brilling recently brought to the village board’s attention was a dire need for equipment upgrades. Brilling said in the future 10 percent of the increased fees for dropping off bio solids at the facility will be dedicated to an equipment upgrade fund. 

Paperwork, including annual reports the village should have received, apparently had not been done. “Oversight has been a problem,” Brilling said.

“Has anyone lost their job over this?” board member Frank Caruso asked.

Brilling said no, but he was focusing on moving forward with making the facility compliant rather than determining what had gone wrong in the past.

“I kind of wish someone had been nailed on this,” Caruso said.

Brilling said he expected to have a good idea what needed to happen at the plant in three months and expected to update the board at that time.

Brilling said he needed that time to be sure the moves he made at the facility were going to be effective solutions to the problems the sewer district faces.

“I want to be able move forward with confidence. We’re not going there unless I’m completely confident that it’s going to work,” he said.

The sewer district recently found out it could be subject to as much as $75,000 in EPA fines because it had not been meeting temperature guidelines spelled out for the composting process as well as failing to meet fecal coliform limits in test samples.

The facility also could not document where the inadequate product resulting from missing those temperatures had gone, Brilling said.

Brilling said certain required high temperatures for killing bacteria were not met starting back in 2006 through 2009. The fine has been proposed because the facility failed to keep the compost at a required 131 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure killing of fecal coliform bacteria.

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