PLATTSBURGH — The City of Plattsburgh says a new sludge treatment process shouldn’t result in odors from its compost plant.
The Town of Plattsburgh is reviewing an application from the city for a permit to operate the Plattsburgh Organics Recycling Plant. The plan needs Planning Board approval because of the town’s local law regulating solid-waste operations.
City Environmental Manager Jonathan Ruff provided another outline of the city’s plan at a recent Town Planning Board meeting.
The town and city have opposing views of what is commonly referred to as the compost plant, located on a side road off Rugar Street near Interstate 87.
The plant, which had processed sludge from the city’s Wastewater Treatment Plant — located in downtown Plattsburgh — was closed in the middle of 2005, after years of odor complaints.
The city received an amended permit this March from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation that would allow an alkaline treatment as an alternative to composting. The permit allows for only one or the other, while the application to the town is for alkaline treatment only.
The city presently sends the sludge to the Franklin County Landfill. Ruff said the landfill could refuse to accept the sludge in the future or DEC could prohibit that method of disposal.
The alkaline-treatment process involves mixing sludge with materials such as fly ash or lime to raise the mixture’s pH to above 12 and temperatures of more than 126 degrees to reduce pathogens to an acceptable level.
The city hopes to sell the resulting product as a soil-improving agent.
The mixture would be contained indoors during the process and subsequent storage.
The air in the facility is turned over every seven minutes, Ruff said, and a large fan sends the air up a 117-foot-high discharge stack.
“The bottom line is we don’t feel there should be any off-site odors,” he said.
He said the city would establish a 24-hour hotline to handle odor complaints. If the fan is broken or a particularly strong-smelling batch of sludge arrives from the Wastewater Plant, the decision should be to send the material to the landfill, Ruff said.
If there are odor complaints, the city will respond promptly and fix the problem or shut the operation down, Ruff said.
The compost plant was previously operated by a private company, Veolia Water. That firm had a permit to treat 205 wet tons of sludge per day.
The sludge came to Plattsburgh from a number of different locations, and the city had no control over how long it sat around before it arrived here, Ruff said.
The city’s permit allows for treatment of only 40 wet tons per day using the alkaline process.
The city would also be able to ensure it wouldn’t sit around before processing, Ruff said, and an odor-control product would be added to the sludge while it is still at the Wastewater Plant.
The sludge would come from the city’s Wastewater Treatment Plant, which includes some sewage from the Town of Plattsburgh and from the plant in the Town of Peru.
If the city decides to continue sending sludge to the landfill, alkaline treatment would be available as a backup.
If it decides to switch to alkaline treatment, the city would still send occasional loads to the landfill to keep the option available.
“We don’t know if we’re going to run it,” Ruff said of the plant.
That decision would come from the City Common Council, he said.
The city estimates it could save $100,000 to $250,000 a year by using the alkaline treatment process.
Philip Von Bargen, head of the Town Planning Department, said staff will review the information provided by Ruff and submit a report to Planning Department members before their July meeting. The Planning Board will then decide if the city has provided enough information or whether other questions need answers.
If the board decides there is enough information, Von Bargen said, it needs to hold a public hearing on the proposal. The Planning Board can then make a decision on whether to grant the permit.
Town Councilor Paul Lamoy said he would like to see any permit have a condition that the town codes officer could shut the plant down if odors are an issue.
Town Supervisor Bernie Bassett said that if Planning Board members decide to grant the permit, he wants them to include as many control measures as possible.
He said that, in the short run, he’s sure city officials would do all they can to make sure the process works properly; but in the long run, there’s no way to be sure it will always work as intended, he said.
“It has the seeds of something that could be detrimental.”
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