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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, November 12, 2009

Altamont faces DEC order on consent for illicit stormwater discharge

By Philippa Stasiuk

ALTAMONT Trustee Christine Marshall informed the board at its November meeting on Wednesday that two years of illicit stormwater discharges by the village’s water plant will likely mean an order on consent by the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation.

Marshall said she and Public Works Superintendent Tim McIntyre had met with a representative from the DEC the previous week. Since August, the board has been deliberating on how best to proceed after two studies conducted by the engineering firm Barton & Loguidice — one on sewer inflow and infiltration completed earlier this year, and a recent preliminary feasibility draft on Altamont’s wastewater plant — have recommended an overhaul of the system that will cost $3.5 million.

  Altamont’s woes stem from a 20-year-old decision by the village to update its sewer system by a now controversial method called blending, whereby during heavy snow or rainfall, some excess water is released from the plant without completing the entire treatment process. Since 2007, the DEC has ruled that blending is an unacceptable method for sewer treatment plants to use and doing so makes the village noncompliant with federal regulations.

Mayor James Gaughan asked McIntyre to explain why the village could be issued an order of consent, and what are the implications.

“Ninety-nine percent of time, we meet all expectations,” said McIntyre. “Up until two years ago, the blending operation that we were approved to do through DEC was acceptable. Now, they said we have to sample the water during storm operations, which is when the plant goes into storm flow. We’re OK under normal conditions but over five to six events during the course of the year we don’t have the ability to meet the SPDES [State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System] permit.  That’s when we have a problem.”

McIntyre explained during the August board meeting that, while the plant is capable of processing an average day’s worth of water, which is about 200,000 gallons, a heavy rain or snow melt, in which numerous sump pumps in villagers’ homes add water to the already heavy inflow, requires the plant to process about 420,000 gallons of water a day, which the aging plant cannot do.

The village counsel, Michael Moore, explained to the village that a consent order is an alternative to formal enforcement proceeding that has been in place for over 25 years. Moore said it is widely used by the DEC to, “resolve what the agency perceives to be violations of environmental laws of New York State.”

An order on consent is a legal agreement in which the violator agrees to pay to correct violations, to do required cleanup, or to refrain from some activity that is deemed unacceptable. The agreement can be enforced in court.

Trustee Marshall said that, at the December board meeting, she would know specifics, like a timeframe for the order on consent and what steps have to be taken to make the village compliant with current environmental laws.

“We knew we had the problem from the Barton & Loguidice reports,” said Marshall. “We’re not surprised that we haven’t been in compliance.  I can only surmise that the DEC felt it was time to take the next step in their minds with the village to put us on a corrective action plan.”

A representative of the DEC could not be reached for comment this week.

Other business

The board also:

— Heard from Mayor Gaughan that himself, Marijo Dougherty, village archivist, and a grants monitor from SCD will be meeting to discuss how best to spend the $1,440 grant that was awarded to the village by SCD for village archival use;

— Heard from Gaughan that the current banners in the village will be replaced with banners that say, “Seasons Greetings” in the following fortnight;

— Heard from Gaughan that Dr. Michael Gardner of Altamont had donated $250 towards the village archives;

— Heard from Public Safety Commissioner Anthony Salerno that Altamont Police officers had completed firearm training for the year;

— Approved a request from the Altamont Community Traditions to hold a Victorian Holiday Celebration event on the weekend of Dec. 5 and 6.

The board heard from Norm Bauman that Altamont Community Traditions will be sponsoring a wine and cheese evening on Saturday, Dec. 6, at the Masonic Hall, and a Victorian holiday house tour on Sunday, Dec. 7.

Also on Sunday, Dec. 6, there will be a costume event for dogs and their owners at noon. Entry forms for the free contest are at the library and the Home Front Café and need to be returned by Dec. 1. Prizes will be awarded for the funniest, most authentic, and most colorful costumes;

—Authorized a resolution to spend $52,645,52 from general, water, and sewer reserve funds to purchase a Toro Groundsmaster 4100-D Commercial Mower on state contract as recommended by McIntyre. The mower that is being replaced is 14 years old and will be sold;

— Approved a request by Judith Wines, director of the Altamont Free Library, to hold a Library Lights holiday fund-raiser to support the building fund of the new Altamont Free Library to be held Nov. 29 at the Gazebo in Orsini Park;

— Approved the recommendations of the Altamont Guilderland Referral Committee regarding an application from Geoffrey Brown, 683 and 871 Altamont-Voorheesville Rd., for operation of a lawn and landscaping/contracting facility on two adjacent parcels of land. Vehicle storage will occur on a parcel with an owner-occupied single-family home with material storage on a contiguous vacant lot;

— Approved the following new officers for the Altamont Fire Department: Paul Miller, chief; Robert White, first assistant chief; and William Hoogkamp, second assistant chief;

— Approved an application from Tyler Reinemann of Main Street for apprentice fireman membership to the fire department, as requested by Chief Miller;

— Approved holding a public hearing at 7:45 p.m. on Dec. 1,  at Village Hall, 115 Main Street, on a law that will codify local laws, ordinances, and certain resolutions of the village into a municipal code to be designated the “Code of the Village of Altamont”; and

— Approved McIntyre’s request to hire Dennis Taber of Guilderland as a full-time public works laborer at a salary of $13 per hour. The position is probationary for a period of up to one year.

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