Does the Village of Saugerties earn enough from the fees it charges outside haulers for processing their waste in the village sewage department? Plant supervisor Alphonse “Mike” Marino’s reported on the subject at the August 19 meeting of the village board. The discussion continued at the regular meeting on September 3. And it will continue again at the next meeting.
In August, Marino had questioned the value of accepting waste, especially from large haulers, arguing that the additional cost of treating outside waste didn’t produce sufficient income to make it worthwhile. Trustee Donald Hackett, who was not at the August 19 meeting, disagreed at the September meeting. He said the plant needed the extra material to operate efficiently, and that the village taxpayers would have to pick up the revenue loss if the outside haulers were dropped.
In a detailed report to the village board, Marino had shown the month-by-month figures for the volume of processed effluent, which increased from 603,00 septic gallons in 2017 to 874,000 in 2018. The septic flow through July of this year has been 651,000 gallons, putting this year on track to increase the volume further.
Marino was concerned that the stress on the plant equipment when it accepted outside septic material increased costs, particularly on the pump and the grinder. The sewer department is awaiting cost estimates for this work.
Acknowledging that banning outside septic waste would significantly increase the cost to taxpayers, Marino suggests limiting the size of trucks accepted at the facility to 2800 gallon. The acceptance of larger trucks, he argued, increased the possibility that septage from sources other than residential might be accepted, which could further upset the plant processes. In addition, he suggested the village board consider the effect of running heavier trucks on the residential streets.
Hackett said the village plant was running way under capacity. “We’re doing about 700,000 gallons a day, and our capacity is 1.35 million,” he said. “The sludge we take in is supposed to offset that.” But it doesn’t. It averages only about 1800 gallons a day on average.
When the sludge comes in, it goes into a holding tank, through a grinder plus a pump, and goes back to the head of the head of the plant, where it’s put in with the effluent and then it comes back into the plant.
“I don’t see where there’s wear and tear when we’re at such low capacity,” Hackett said. Running the plant at low capacity causes as much wear and tear as running over-capacity, he argued. He suggested the trustees go over the report and be prepared with questions for Marino at the next meeting.
Trustee Terry Parisian said he would read through the report and join the further discussion at the next meeting, which Marino is expected to attend. He said he had asked Marino at the previous meeting whether the positive cash flow on the septic taken in really accounted for all the wear and tear on the machines and the additional chemicals. What was the cost to the taxpayer?
Mayor Bill Murphy agreed that under-capacity operation was as detrimental as over-capacity.
Parisian repeated his concerns. He said the cost of electricity to power the additional lines, the cost of chemicals and other expenses might exceed the increased income.
Trustee Jeff Helmuth said it would be worth looking at what the haulers pay compared with what residents pay for sewage services. “That’s the same argument,” he said. “Treating the ordinary municipal sewage, there’s an additional layer of treatment with the sludge that doesn’t take place with municipal sewage.”
“We’re bringing in $90,000 to $100,000 a year,” Hackett replied. “That’s about ten percent of our budget.”
If the plant takes in 700,000 gallons of municipal waste, how much more taxing can an additional 1800 gallons be, Murphy asked.
The board will also continue discussing limiting the size of trucks the village would allow to deliver to the plant.
Parisian said he was still skeptical about the argument about how under-utilization of the plant can cause as much harm as over-utilization.
Helmuth explained that the bacteria that treat the garbage and enzymes vary with the size of the plant.
Hackett explained after the meeting that the plant had originally been designed to handle waste from the village, Glasco and Malden. Since its opening, the two hamlets opened their own plants, leaving the village plant underutilized. The sludge from private haulers could make up that difference, he said.
The plant is about 50 percent underutilized because of the original plan’s reliance on Glasco and Malden to share in the plant’s operation and function, said special projects coordinator Alex Wade. The plant was opened to outside haulers to help defray the cost of operating the larger plant, Wade agreed. As Marino had stated in the report, “the revenue from septage is a significant part of the operation of the plant, and to significantly reduce this revenue will put additional costs on the taxpayer.”
Hackett asked how taxpayers would react to the increased burden on them if the income from private haulers were to be cut off. He wanted that discussion at the next meeting, when Marino would be present.