ELIZABETHTOWN - Town officials in support of a new wastewater treatment system in Elizabethtown held an informational meeting Oct. 13 to address some of the public's top concerns.
The project, which is expected to total more than $9.5 million, involves a gravity-based sewer system that would service the most dense areas of the hamlet and feed into a wastewater treatment plant along the Boquet River on Woodruff Lane.
Many residents, including several members of the town's planning board, have opposed the project, wary of a noisy, malodorous, or ugly sewage plant that could ruin property values or interfere with their well-being.
Engineers involved in the sewer system's design, together with supervisor Noel Merrihew, worked to assure the 20 residents present at the meeting that the infrastructure would be designed with those concerns in mind.
Rick Straut, an engineer from Barton and Loguidice, said the state Department of Environmental Conservation has urged the town for several years to install a municipal sewer system because of repeated septic system failures and issues with waste disposal at Elizabethtown Community Hospital.
"Also, this is a smart growth concept to spur economic growth within the hamlet," he stated.
Jack Dodson of Dodson and Associates, another engineering firm involved in the project, said the treatment plant will be housed in an enclosed building that will be soundproofed and equipped with odor-controlling ventilation to prevent it from being a nuisance to neighboring properties.
"Architecturally, we can make this look and blend in as folks feel comfortable," Dodson said, noting they intend to work with Historic Preservation department officials to make the building fit in with the other historic buildings nearby.
The plant will employ two sequencing batch reactor tanks, which reduce bacteria and odor from developing in the wastewater as it's treated.
"The sludge that is produced there will be trucked off-site to another treatment facility in either Ticonderoga or Plattsburgh," Straut explained.
Overall, Straut said project designers were taking extra steps to ensure the treatment plant would have a negative impact.
"We don't expect it to have any kind of negative effect on property value," he said.
Financing for the sewer system will largely come through grants and low-interest loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development program and the state-run Environmental Facilities Corporation. $4.1 million in grants and a $4.3 million, 38-year, zero-interest loan will keep the annual cost down to $362 for single-family homes served by the new pipeline.
Still, some homeowners seemed skeptical that the wastewater system would be a worthwhile benefit to everyone within the sewer district.
One concern most frequently raised was the contribution by large institutions within the hamlet, such as ECH, Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School, and the County Government Complex. Merrihew explained that the rates would be slightly higher for those entities, accounting for about 30 percent of the total cost.
Others were concerned about how costs incurred by the county and school would lead to higher taxes for people outside the sewer district. Town councilman Phil Hutchins pointed out that both institutions already set aside significant funds just to maintain their current septic systems.
William Finucane, whose business is located on Hand Avenue, questioned how many private septic systems had failed in the hamlet recently, and if it was enough to warrant such a costly project.
Merrihew and others said new, stricter DEC regulations made it unfeasible to install or replace septic systems on several lots within the hamlet, and a sewage system was needed to attract and retain major employers in the hamlet.
A referendum on the proposed sewer system is expected as early as January 2010.