New sewer technology offered to Phoenicia

By Jay Braman Jr.
The cost of building and operating a sewer system in Phoenicia, along with related technological issues, has kept the project at a controversial standstill for years, but new technology has now appeared that may convince voters in this hamlet that installing a system is the right thing to do.
Three years ago voters in the district turned down plans for a conventional system that would have cost $17 million. The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which would foot the bill for building the system, then turned down a counter proposal made by the Town of Shandaken for an experimental system that the town believes would dramatically reduce the annual operating costs that Phoenicia businesses would bear.
That is where things stood until recently when DEP announced a new technology it is offering to Phoenicia.
“After reviewing the feasibility study for the use of vegetative sand beds to replace the conventional wastewater sewage plant and constructed wetlands to replace the drying beds, the DEP engineers found shortcomings which they cannot resolve,” said Shandaken Supervisor Peter DiSclafani. “The DEP has recently approved a new system called Membrane bioreactor (MBR) which eliminates the need for micro-filtration and sand filtration, uses less space, and costs significantly less - possibly a $1 million or more.”
The supervisor added that the MBR could work in conjunction with some of the elements of the vegetative sand beds system that DEP rejected.
“The reed beds would still replace the drying beds and de-watering plant, thus saving more money,” he said.
The town has until July 31 to offer the DEP a plan. If accepted, a preliminary design would need to be approved, the financial information on operation and maintenance costs would then be made available to the district and the plan would be offered for to Phoenicia voters in a referendum.
In 1997, when DEP made a deal with several upstate communities to build waste treatment systems, DEP demanded microfiltration, which was the best technology available at the time.
Andes, the first community to get a sewer system under the deal, now has problems with the micro filtration system to the tune of $2.5 million in repair costs. DEP has reportedly offered the MBR technology to Andes as a replacement option, but nothing has been settled yet.