Bad smell prompts another delay in plant upgrade

JOHNSTOWN – Lingering foul odor problems caused the Gloversville-Johnstown Wastewater Treatment Facility to halt operation of its new $8 million CAST upgrade system on Monday for the fourth time in less than two years.

Sewer plant officials have been trying to keep the CAST system operational for an extended time the last couple years.

But foul odors continue to plague the major capital upgrade when it is operational; odors that permeate a wide area around the Union Avenue sewage treatment plant.

Every time sewer officials try to make the upgrade operational, a new round of odor complaints are forwarded by city residents to the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Operations staff have made numerous adjustments to the CAST process to alleviate odors, but thus far have been unsuccessful,

“We had it shut down [Monday],” facility Manager Wallace Arnold said Wednesday. “We’re continuing to work on a remedy for our odor control. That’s why we shut it down.”

Sewer officials say the Contact Absorption Settling Thickening system, or CAST system, is a more economical way to treat incoming waste. It also helps to create methane gas the plant uses to generate electricity and sell excess back to the electric grid.

The main focus of the upgrade project is to treat waste byproducts mainly from two companies – cheese manufacturer Euphrates Inc. and yogurt manufacturer Fage USA – both located at the Johnstown Industrial Park.

CAST process utilizes waste-activated sludge microorganisms from the existing aeration process to absorb biological oxygen demand from the dairy washwater stream. Officials say the combustible gas which results from the process fuels three 350 kilowatt generators. The 1 megawatt plant creates more power than it uses.

When the facility is not drawing the power for its own needs, the surplus electricity is sold back to the power grid, providing revenue. Sale of the extra 2 million kilowatt-hours per year back to the grid is expected to earn revenue, supporting the plant operations and saving money for municipal owners.

The new CAST system was shut down in early 2015, for the second time in May 2015, and again in February of this year. Arnold said the CAST system was restarted May 2 and it ran one week with “minimal” odor issues.

Facility staff monitored data, trends and odors, but area residents started complaining again May 8 to the state<and the decision was made to shut down CAST earlier this week.

Johnstown 3rd Ward Councilwoman Helen Martin, chairwoman of the Gloversville-Johnstown Joint Sewer Board, said Arnold is attempting the alleviate the odor problems when the CAST system is switched on.

“He’s working very, very diligently with the staff, trying to figure out what’s going on,” Martin said.

She said Arnold is in constant contact with Barton & Loguidice engineers of Liverpool, Onondaga County,who recently evaluated system on site.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at [email protected].

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