Village of Voorheesville to test sewers in Salem Hills

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

The village of Voorheesville recently approved $30,000 to test the sewer system in the Salem Hills neighborhood.

VOORHEESVILLE — On a normal day, the Salem Hills sewage treatment facility typically takes in between 50,000 and 60,000 gallons of wastewater, but six times that can run through the system on a rainy day or a day when snow is melting.

“We’re probably seeing somewhere in the neighborhood of 300,000 gallons a day during those really wet weather events — and that causes problems with the plant,” Trustee Richard Straut said at a recent Voorheesville board meeting.

Straut said that he and Superintendent of Public Works Brett Hotaling had been talking in recent weeks about the impact of inflow and infiltration ( I& I) on the sewer system in the Salem Hills neighborhood, “about some of the troubles we’ve been having,” in particular during heavy rains and when snow melts. 

To deal with the problem, the board of trustees at its March meeting approved a contract with C.T. Male not to exceed $30,000 to test the decades-old system. 

Kathryn Serra, an engineer from C.T. Male who was presenting to the board, said the inflow-and-infiltration problem with the system was mostly due to the age and type of system in the Salem Hills neighborhood. The rest of Voorheesville’s sewer systems mostly operate on grinder pumps (which don’t have problems with I & I); Salem Hills is a gravity system. 

Sump pumps are continuously running, leading to a lot of excess non-sanitary flow going into the sewer system, she said, “which helps explain that significant peak flow you have between an average day and a peak day.”

A peak day, Serra explained, isn’t because residents are flushing their toilets excessively or using their dishwashers all at once; rather, it’s because of the non-sanitary inflow-and-infiltration contribution to the system.

Inflow and infiltration is excess groundwater and stormwater that seeps into a sewer system.

Stormwater — inflow — pours into sewers through holes or cracks in  manhole covers, foundation drains, sump pumps, and roof-drain downspouts. 

Groundwater — infiltration — leaks into a system through cracks or holes in pipes or bad connections and joint failures.

Often inflow and infiltration is a byproduct of aging infrastructure in need of upkeep or replacement. 

Over the last several years, Vooheesville’s public works department has made efforts to identify property owners whose sump pumps feed directly into village sewers and have had those connections removed from the system — two have been identified in the last year, it was said during the March 2 meeting.

Under normal weather conditions, Straut said, the plant operates at about half its capacity. “So the capacity is there, but not for all the stormwater,” he said. “The capacity is there for what it’s intended for.”



 The methods of inspection will include:

— A closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera that’s inserted down into the sewer pipes “to get a better idea if there any significant areas of broken pipes that could actually be leading to groundwater going into the sewer during periods of high groundwater,” Serra said;

— Smoke testing, in which is an odorless, non-toxic smoke is pumped into the sewer system from the street to let the testers know if the property owner has a foundation drain or sump pump that drains into the village system; and

— A visual inspection of manhole covers because, Serra said, “over the years, you repave ... [and] manhole covers are set below the pavement. There actually are cracks or holes in the manholes; that’s just rainwater going straight into the sanitary sewer ….”

C.T Male will also look at ways for Voorheesville to expand or improve its storm-sewer infrastructure so that, when the village comes to property owners and asks them to disconnect their sump pumps from its system, the village is able to offer a solution other than just “dumping out their sump pump right into their neighbor’s yard,” Serra said.

Mayor Robery Conway said, “There has to be a viable solution to them coming off with the system. I mean, we can’t just tell them to stop. There’s no way they can do anything with water itself.”

Straut told Conway, “Conceptually, we have ideas on how to do that, and we just have to know where we have to do it and get a budget for it. And that’ll be part of [Serra’s] work.”

The village has yet to set a date for testing. 

For the smoke testing, C.T. Male would draft a letter that the village would send to residents to let them know when testing would take place. 

After the testing takes place, a public meeting would be held to explain the results of the testing, what problems were identified, and why they need to be corrected.

More New Scotland News

  • “It’s just a lot of chance to take ...,” said Wendall Thayer of holding the Voorheesville Memorial Day parade despite COVID-19 still in the community. “It would be awful  somebody caught something because we had the parade.”

  • The owner of Stonewell Plaza has acquired an attorney who in turn has reached out to New Scotland planning and zoning board attorney Crystal Peck and is now trying to come up with a compromise that might work instead of paying for a parking analysis that is only going to show what is already known by nearly everyone involved: The site has too few spots to accommodate plaza businesses or to meet what is called for in the code.

  • Robert Baron filed his lawsuit in March 2018, alleging the Voorheesville Central School District fraudulently induced him to resign as the longtime head coach of the girls’ varsity basketball team.

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