Wastewater Treatment plant hit with new odor complaints

JOHNSTOWN — The Gloversville-Johnstown Wastewater Treatment Facility — fined by the state for past odor complaints — was recently hit with a fresh batch of new public odor complaints.

But sewer plant Manager Wallace Arnold said Tuesday these odors are not coming from the Contact Absorption Settling Thickening system, or CAST system process, which resulted in the $12,600 in civil fines meted out in June.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation in June found the sewer plant in violation of its State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, or SPDES Permit. But officials say that problem is taken care of.

“I’ve eliminated the real nasty CAST odors,” Arnold said. “Now it’s getting complicated.”

The newest odors coming from the sewage treatment plant garnering complaints are more normal, ordinary odors resulting from the primary tanks routinely in use at the facility, Arnold said.

“They just don’t want the wastewater treatment plant here.” Arnold said of the complaints.

Arnold told the Gloversville-Johnstown Joint Sewer Board last week that two residents filed odor complaints via email from these locations: Cutter Drive in Johnstown — Aug. 30 to 31, Sept. 7; and Breckenridge Drive in Johnstown — Sept. 7. He responded to both residents.

As a result of the new complaints, Arnold said Carus Corp. was on-site to recalibrate the chemical feed system for odor control. He said potassium permanganate dosing was increased from one pail per day to three pails per day, including weekends. Arnold said all complaints were reported to DEC and posted to the odor complaint log on the facility’s website.

The facility was hit by DEC violations on June 28 and the sewer plant still has to pay $12,600 in fines. The violations were because of ongoing odor problems the facility had related to the start up of its CAST process.

The sewage treatment plant several years ago underwent an $8 million CAST upgrade to treat waste byproducts mainly from two Johnstown Industrial Park companies — cheese manufacturer Euphrates Inc. and yogurt manufacturer Fage USA. But the upgraded, more modern CAST system proved unusable in the early years because it generated strong odors in the sewer plant area.

Officials said the CAST system spawned unacceptable odors at the plant, which spread into parts of Johnstown. But the CAST system is needed to process large amounts of whey, especially from top sewer plant customer FAGE USA.

Arnold said that when the facility started up the CAST system — going back to August and September 2015 — the odors were widespread throughout the plant area of Johnstown. He said the odors continued quite a bit for two years, but in recent years a chemical process has been introduced to help mitigate some of the odor.

DEC in January first gave the sewer plant permission to use potassium permanganate to help alleviate odors. But the state put the following conditions on the facility: Continue WET testing, notify DEC if odor complaints are received, provide a report detailing the effectiveness of the pilot project, and provide for an engineering study to resolve odor issues if the pilot project is unsuccessful.

Arnold reported to his board last week he contacted legal counsel concerning payment of the civil penalty issued by DEC’s Order on Consent. The total civil penalty of $12,600 will be paid this way: $6,300 by July 15, 2020; and the other $6,300 by July 15, 2021.

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

By Kerry Minor

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