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The nitty-gritty of the Webster sewer treatment plant discussions

The Town and Village of Webster held a public information meeting to discuss the possibility of a regional wastewater treatment plant

The Town of Webster wastewater treatment plant is currently undergoing Phase I construction.


It’s beginning to smell a lot like sewage once again, as the town and village discussions regarding the possibility of a regional plant continue.

The Town and Village of Webster hosted a joint public information presentation via Zoom on Aug. 19 to provide residents with an overview of the different alternatives regarding the futures of the town and village wastewater treatment plants (WWTP).

Engineering consultants Ken Knutsen, from Barton & Loguidice (who completed the town’s recent WWTP study), and Clem Chung, from Labella Associates (who completed the village’s WWTP study), presented the details of each option (regional vs. individual plants). Town and village board officials were also in attendance.

A lot of information was presented, so if you missed it, here’s an overview of the main information that was discussed.

The Decision at Hand

With a timeline dating back to 2016, the Village and Town of Webster have been evaluating and discussing recommended upgrades for their wastewater treatment plants. The village and town boards have each had engineering studies completed, and each received a list of high-cost recommendations.

Currently, the village plant functions in accord with the town’s State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) permit, as the village’s flow meets up with the town’s prior to being discharged into Lake Ontario.

Under an intermunicipal agreement (IMA), the village serves under a significant other user (SOU) permit, but the town, having the SPDES permit, bears all responsibility for the discharge of disinfected flow into the environment.

As a result of their completed studies, the village and town boards have been discussing the option of consolidating to create one regional plant, as opposed to two separate plants.

The Village-Only Upgrade Option

If the village decides to keep its plant independent of the town, it would pursue upgrading its wastewater treatment plant per engineer recommendations.

Those upgrades would include the following:

  • Constructing a new chemical/septage-receiving building

  • Improving the influent channel

  • Replacing trickling filter pumps and controls

  • Replacing primary clarifier equipment

  • Replacing primary and secondary sludge pumps

  • Replacing the digester dual-fired boiler and heat exchanger

  • Replacing digester gas safety equipment

  • Completing primary digester rehabilitation and coating

  • Upgrading electrical and HVAC units

Additionally, due to odor complaints, the engineers had to increase the size of the septage-receiving building so trucks could be offloaded inside the building. This increased the total estimated cost for this project to $5.7 million.

But with the new Webster town supervisor came an updated evaluation of the village-only option. According to the village engineers, if the village were to proceed with this option, it would need to update its intermunicipal agreement with the town and obtain its own SPDES permit. To acquire that permit, the village would have to add the following to its aforementioned list of recommendations:

  • Increasing the redundancy of the secondary process, which would mean decommissioning the existing trickling filter and replacing it with two, individually smaller filters that have the same capacity as a combined unit;

  • Effluent disinfection for the village itself (currently the town provides this service to the village);

  • A separate sampling location (to prove to the DEC that the village is meeting the requirements for the SPDES permit).

These added recommendations increase the estimated total project cost to $10.9 million.

The Village-County Option

The village has also considered the option of taking flows to Monroe County. With this option, the following actions would be taken:

  • Decommission the village wastewater treatment plant;

  • Build a new pump station;

  • Connect to a diversion structure (which currently exists in the Town of Webster; currently, some of the flows get diverted to the town plant and the rest is diverted to Monroe County);

  • Upsize sewer to Sandbar pump station;

  • Upgrade one of the county pump stations at the Sandbar station/force main.

The total estimated cost for this option, as calculated in 2017, is $10.2 million.

Town Upgrades So Far

The Town of Webster wastewater treatment plant is currently undergoing necessary construction per engineer upgrade recommendations. According to the town’s engineers, an evaluation of the plant’s major unit processes revealed that the rectangular, secondary clarifiers, which are the “last line of defense” before the effluent reaches Lake Ontario, were in critical condition.

As a result, the town divided the recommended improvements into two phases.

Phase I includes clarifier replacement. This phase was “commenced in earnest,” according to the town’s engineers, in 2018, with construction beginning in 2019. The three rectangular clarifiers are replaced with three circular clarifiers, each with a 90-foot diameter.

Two new clarifiers are currently on-line, allowing the rectangular clarifiers to go off-line.

Phase I improvements also include generator and pump upgrades. These upgrades involve:

  • A new 800 KW standby emergency generator that powers the entire plant;

  • New solids-handling pumps, piping, flow meters, instrumentation, and controls.

The estimated total cost for Phase I upgrades is $12 million. The town has already secured a $3 million grant towards that total from New York State. Completion of Phase I construction is projected for December 2020.

Phase II includes the recommended upgrades the town would pursue if it does not consolidate plants with the town.

The Town-Only Option

The recommended upgrades for Phase II of the town’s plant include the following:

  • Effluent disinfection

  • Upgraded biological (aeration) process

  • One new primary clarifier

  • New grit chamber

  • Solids-handling upgrades

  • Septage-receiving upgrades

  • Energy efficient I&C

The total estimated cost of Phase II is $19.7 million. This total is in addition to the aforementioned $12 million. Phase II completion is projected for 2023.

The Consolidation Option

Finally, there’s the option of joining the two wastewater treatment plants to create one regional plant.

Currently, the village’s pipes essentially “meet up” with those of the town’s plant, with both flows running together into Ontario.

With the regional option, the following changes would take place with the village plant:

  • Mostly decommissioned at the current site;

  • A few buildings could be repurposed for use by the village’s department of public works.

The village plant’s administration building would remain intact; a headworks building would also remain. Effluent would essentially be redirected to the head of the town’s plant.

As for the town, the existing Phase II recommendations would remain the same, with the following recommendations added:

  • One new primary clarifier (for a total of two)

  • One new secondary clarifier

  • A larger digester (added to solids-handling upgrades)

The total estimated cost of the regional WWTP project is $27.7 million.

According to the engineers, if the town completes its Phase II upgrades, it would increase from a 5 million gallons/day (mgd) capacity to 7.4mgd, to accommodate future growth.

If the village were to proceed with its village-only upgrades, its capacity would remain at 2.5mgd.

With the regional option, both plants would function as one, bringing the total capacity to 9.7mgd.

Monetary Considerations

Barry Howard, president and CEO of the Webster Chamber of Commerce, presented the breakdown of numbers and percentages related to current and projected user bases.

According to Howard, a Single Family Unit equals one equivalent dwelling unit (EDU). One EDU, which houses approximately 2.2 residents, uses about 60,000 gallons/year.

The current town sewer rate is about $187 per EDU, whereas the village rate is about $150 per EDU.

As discussed in the presentation, 10-15% of the town’s flow comes from Xerox, whereas 85-90% of the village’s flow comes from Xerox.

Howard presented pie charts showing that 82% of the town’s sewage comes from residential users. Sixty percent of the village’s flow comes from Xerox (i.e. commercial/industrial).

With a regional plant, 65% of flows would come from residential users, whereas about 19% would come from Xerox. The rest would come from Penfield and commercial/industrial.

According to Howard, under the regional option, the town’s sewer rate is estimated to see a 50% increase come 2023. The village rate would also jump 50%.

If the village were to choose the village-only upgrades, its rate would increase by about 27%.

Under a regional plant, the estimated shares for each municipality are as follows:

  • Estimated Project Costs: $22.9 million (Town), $8.8 million (Village)

  • Estimated Annual O&M (Operation & Maintenance): $1.9 million (Town), $0.7 million (Village)

  • Estimated EDUs: 17,901 (Town), 6,911 (Village)

  • Estimated Annual Debt $/EDU (2023): $60 (Town), $60 (Village)

  • Estimated O&M $/EDU (2023): $109 (Town), $109 (Village)

  • Total Estimated Annual Treatment Charge (2023): $169 (Town), $169 (Village)

If the village were to choose to pursue its own upgrades, the breakdown (for the Village of Webster) would be as follows:

  • Estimated Project Costs: $10.9 million

  • Estimated Annual O&M: $0.65 million

  • Estimated EDUs: 6,911

  • Estimated Annual Debt $/EDU (2023): $40

  • Estimated O&M $/EDU (2023): $94

  • Total Estimated Annual Treatment Charge (2023): $134

Why Consider a Regional Plant?

The following is a list of the potential benefits related to a regional plant that Howard discussed:

  • Less redundant infrastructure assets

  • Regulatory & Funding Agency support of “Regionalization”

  • Capacity for growth/increase in EDUs

  • Reduced risk/liability due to SPDES compliance

  • Future revenue opportunities (e.g. septage, waste gas-to-energy)

  • Realistic operator availability

Howard also pointed out that the fate of Xerox is unknown, which is a major consideration for the village as Xerox is currently its largest user.

At the time of writing this article, the ultimate decision is waiting to be made by the village board of trustees on whether the village wants to pursue the regional option with the town.

What do YOU think? Should the village go with the upgrades and keep its plant separate from the Town of Webster? Or should they consolidate into a regional plant?

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