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Stiffened DEC disinfectant policy will likely force Sackets to upgrade sewage plant

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SACKETS HARBOR — The village expects it must spend an additional $1 million to upgrade its new $9 million sewage treatment plant because of stricter environmental guidelines being enforced by the state and federal governments.

An ultraviolet treatment system being called for at the plant comes as the Environmental Protection Agency has ordered the state Department of Environmental Conservation to enforce a tougher disinfectant policy announced in the fall, Mayor Vincent J. Battista said at the Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday. Mr. Battista and Trustee Peter R. Daly learned about the EPA’s push for tougher disinfectant standards from DEC officials during a meeting Tuesday morning.

Sackets Harbor was among only 10 of New York state’s roughly 450 municipalities with wastewater treatment plants that are being forced to meet tougher disinfectant standards this year, Mr. Battista said. Requirements are expected to become applicable to all municipalities in the coming years.

The village was informed by the DEC in October that it will need a modified discharge permit, requiring a new disinfectant system to treat the effluent discharged from the village plant into Black River Bay at Lake Ontario. The permit is required because effluent flows into the bay so close to Lake Ontario, which is considered a Class A water body; the bay, by contrast, is a Class C water body that doesn’t require a disinfectant system.

Previously, the state Department of Health told the village it cannot be forced by the DEC to upgrade its plant because it meets water quality testing requirements, Mr. Battista said. But environmental rules from the EPA are expected to trump those state guidelines, according to DEC officials.

“The EPA has regulations in place that are more stringent than the states, and it’s saying the states need to do a better job with disinfection,” Mr. Battista said. “This has been a longstanding issue with the EPA for years, but they haven’t been pushing it until now because they know it’s going to cost the state more money.”

The village is expected to be eligible for a state Water Quality Improvement Project grant that would fund 85 percent of the overall construction cost, Mr. Battista said, but that would not include engineering expenses. Its deadline for that grant application was originally this past December, but that has been extended until March to allow the village to research the project.

At the meeting Tuesday with DEC officials, village officials questioned why they weren’t informed about the tougher policy when the sewage plant was being designed, Mr. Battista said.

It was also unclear why Sackets Harbor was selected among a small number of municipalities that will be forced to comply with rules earlier than others.

“My concern was why they didn’t tell us four years ago to do this when we applied to build a new treatment facility,” he said. “We could have wrapped this into the new plant. We just finished a brand new facility, and haven’t really had a ribbon cutting, and now we’re going to end up spending more money.”

Mr. Daly said the village likely won’t try to legally fight the DEC’s order to upgrade the sewer plant.

“At this point I’d say no, because it’s a mandate coming down through the EPA to the state,” he said. “It’s just unfortunate that they couldn’t do this earlier.”

In other business, Planning Board Chairman Gary M. Gibson reported that the revised village zoning law is ready for the board to consider for adoption in March. The 144-page law is the product of about six years of work.

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