By RUSSELL JONES
PITTSFORD — On Town Meeting Day, March 5, Pittsford will ask voters to agree to a sewage bond that would cost up to $970,000. The bond would replace pumps and pipes to upgrade efficiency of the sewage treatment plant.
The current sewage system is confined to the village core, mostly gravity-fed, and runs through pipelines to a waste treatment facility on Arch Street. At the treatment facility, an activated sludge biological process eats and modifies the waste to turn effluent into a clear, water-like substance before releasing it into the brook.
The problem lies in the fact that some of the areas that are in the sewage system are downhill and require pump stations to pump waste to the pipes where gravity can take over and send it to the waste treatment facility.
Located on Elm Street and Depot Hill, these pumping stations require regular maintenance to perform properly. The pumps on Elm Street, along with the treatment facility itself, were given upgrades to keep them operational around eight to nine years ago.
“In my time as the town manager we have had problems with these pumps the whole time,” John Haverstock said.
The $970,000 sewage bond would address the two pumps on Depot Hill, one smaller pump located at the transfer station and one larger pump, and consolidate them into a single pump. Haverstock said maintenance costs for the upper pump are rising and there is no easy or safe way to access the pump to replace parts.
“The upper pump is over 50 years old,” Haverstock said. “The lower pump was donated by the Pittsford Commons Condos about 27 years ago. The aging pumps, lack of safe way to access them for repairs, along with their decreasing efficacy all lead us to the conclusion that now is the time to replace these.”
The town has done two studies on the sewage system in the last 10 years. Weston and Sampson did the first and Otter Creek Engineering did the second. Both studies recommended replacing the pumps and consolidating the two.
The project would also replace the pipes from the pumps all the way to Route 7.
“The plan is to replace a stretch of 2-inch water main now running from the pump at the transfer station to the upper pump station with 4-inch forced main,” Haverstock said. “With the remaining pipe running from the location of the upper pump station to Route 7 remaining at 4 inches, although possibly replacing the old ductile iron pipe with PVC pipe.”
Several meetings have been held to discuss options and the sewer staff, the Water and Sewage Commission, and the selectboard are all in unanimous agreement that the time is right to make this upgrade.
A couple of problems that plague the current system would likely be fixed with this upgrade: seepage and inefficiency.
Seepage in the sewer system is when rainwater and groundwater get into the sewage system and increase the amount of inflow the treatment facility has to deal with, basically making it treat non-sewage as if it were sewage.
“We have lowered the amount of seepage in the past by replacing pipelines,” Haverstock said. “It only stands to reason that replacing these pipes would also decrease the amount of seepage we see.”
The project also calls for adding sensors to regulate the amount of oxygen used in the treatment, which would save energy by not pumping oxygen in at the maximum amount full-time, increasing the efficiency of the treatment facility.
The project would cost up to $970,000 but Haverstock does not think the town will see the cost rise that high because of several factors.
“Along with competitive bidding, there is funding available from the state, with low or no interest loans,” said Haverstock. “We are also in talks with the federal government. There is a package of loans and grants under the USDA rural development program, which we have used in the past, where 30 to 40 percent of the costs could be grant-funded. We’re optimistic that the actual cost to the town would be far less than $970,000.”
The new pump would be larger, as would the pipes, and would allow for expansion of the sewage system in the future. The current system only serves about 255 paying households, which could raise these households’ sewage bill by $100 every six months, but the town will look to expand if voters approve the new pump. Even though the raised sewage bills will affect only 255 houses, the whole town will vote on the issue.
“We are all sensitive to the sewer rates,” Haverstock said. “No one wants to take on additional debt, but we cannot continue to ignore the problem. The time has come to replace these pumps or the expense will be greater when they fail.”