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Village Sewer A Big Lemon?
Ellenville Starts To Get Sticker Shock Discussing Problems

ELLENVILLE – A great deal of money has been spent on a spanking-new wastewater treatment plant and now village trustees appear to be afraid they've paid a Cadillac price for a lemon.

Nevertheless, village manager Joseph Stoeckeler said problems plaguing the two-year-old plant aren't quite as bad as all that... especially as the faulty equipment discussed during the October 27 meeting was still under warranty.

During the meeting, deputy mayor Ray Younger asked Barton & Loguidice engineer Don Fletcher why it seemed the new plant was having so many issues and required so much attention.

"It seems like every two weeks we're spending money on the sewer plant that we thought we built brand new," Younger said. "I don't know if it's day-to-day operations or if it was something overlooked."

The two issues at hand, Fletcher explained, are the blowers and screen; other things like filter and monitor replacements fall under general maintenance and repairs, and add up to "only a few thousand here and there."

The blowers, including the main blower and a back-up, blow air into the water, Stoeckeler explained, while the screen — a type of augur — pulls solids from the wastewater before going further through the system. Both are intricate parts of the wastewater plant.

The lesser of the two problems, the blowers, has been fixed, Fletcher said. But while both blowers are operational, one is not as efficient as the other, he explained further, which seems to stem from a manufacturer's problem that is leading the village to entertain the idea of a plan C, in the event that the main blower (plan A) and back-up blower (plan B) both fail.

A few months back, Stoeckeler explained, there was a proposal to install bypass plumbing that would allow for a rented, portable blower to be attached to the system in the event that both blowers failed. At a cost of approximately $10,000, the village manager said it's not a job he wants to do, but one that he and wastewater plant manager Michael Ryman highly recommend.

As it is, he continued, if a blower goes down it's a long process — anywhere from two to five weeks — for replacement parts to come in. While the vendor is further upstate, the company is based in Canada and the essential parts of the blower are made in South Korea.

The more pressing problem of the malfunctioning screen, Fletcher said, should be repaired "once and for all" this week, at least, according to a letter the village received from the manufacturer. According to Stoeckeler, the screen is warrantied as well but attempts to fix the problem have been made three times, unsuccessfully... And if this final attempt is unsuccessful as well, the village may have to consider a serious measure — like legal action — to have it fixed.

The screen hasn't worked properly in some time, leading Fletcher and wastewater plant officials to be concerned about the amount of sediment on the bottom of the holding tanks.

"I don't think we know for sure how bad the sediments look on the bottom," Fletcher said, noting how usually such concerns are raised later on in a plant's life. "I've never had, in all the years I've done treatment plant work, a piece of equipment have this many problems."

Also problematic is the sheer amount of commercial grease and oil going through the sewer system, Stoeckeler said, referencing a proposed new law designed to help stem such problems in the future. The large amounts of grease and oil entering the sewer system from village restaurants is concerning, he explained, because of such materials' ability to block sewer pipes and potentially cause back-ups of raw sewage.

Modifications to the current codes regarding grease traps would require restaurant owners to send the receipt of trap clean outs and maintenance reports to the village and allow for spontaneous inspections. Failure to do so would result in fines.

A public hearing on the proposed grease trap law will take place November 10 to allow restaurant owners and residents a chance to be heard on the matter.

In other news, the board approved the resignation of village zoning board member James Pidel and noted the subsequent need for both a ZBA member and housing authority member.

While much of the meeting revolved around water issues, mayor Jeff Kaplan brought up the need to work with the Ellenville Wawarsing Chamber of Commerce to promote pedestrian traffic within the village as well as ways to continue beautifying the area. Additionally, the mayor informed the board that Wawarsing supervisor Leonard Distel made a decision he wasn't entirely sure of — to move the community's emergency management center to the airport, which is prone to flooding.

"Quite frankly, I think it would be a huge mistake for the village to go out of jurisdiction, away from our police department and into the flood zone, to have our emergency location when we're up on a higher level, Kaplan said. "I think that we very well may be separate from the town at the next emergency."

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