$5 Million in Public Funds Allocated to Struggling North Tonawanda Wastewater Treatment Plant | Local News
North Tonawanda officials are hoping a $5 million infusion of emergency government funds will stave off the city’s sewage treatment plant from impending failure.
Mayor Austin J. Tylec, Democrat Assemblyman William Conrad and members of the North Tonawanda City Council will announce that funding for plant repairs is included in the 2022-23 state budget at a press conference at noon Tuesday at the River Road facility.
“At the end of the day, the amount of repairs we need at the plant would be around $30 million,” Tylec said in a phone interview with The News on Monday.
Both sides agree that urgent aid is needed, but Mayor Austin J. Tylec and his Republican critics are pointing the finger at the culprits for who is to blame for the situation becoming so urgent.
The mayor said the plant needed many repairs that could otherwise create environmental hazards. The state Department of Environmental Conservation reported the plant for violation in 2020, and did so again in 2021, as the city did nothing about the 2020 violations.
Tylec said the city originally requested a $30 million allocation from the state’s U.S. bailout funds, but that request was reduced to $10 million in emergency aid.
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“When I say emergency, it’s not something that will be catastrophic tomorrow, but maybe in three years and the idea being that a lot of these projects take a few years to plan, design, design, build and implement By the three-marker of the year, that’s when we hope this will all be over,” the mayor said.
Tylec said a $6 million Phase I capital project at the wastewater treatment plant to address some of its most pressing issues – including chlorination issues, faulty pumps and the need of a new sand filter system – is almost complete.
“Many have argued that this capital planning really needed to happen 15 years ago,” he said. “Now we’re just catching up.”
Conrad sponsored the bill to include $5 million in public funding for emergency sewage treatment plant repairs. He said most of the money will go towards repairing corroded 30-inch pipes that hover 20 feet in the air at the plant. In March, Conrad gave a tour of the facility. As former chairman of the City of Tonawanda Water Services, he said he was amazed by the state of the North Tonawanda plant.
Conrad noted that the pumps at the municipal facility had no backup power, allowing raw sewage to back up either into residential basements or into the Niagara River.
“They showed me that the digester had exploded a few years ago in 2020 and basically the raw sewage went into the lake from the Niagara River. Then they took me to their pumping facility, where they were trying to replace the pumps,” Conrad said. .
The digester treats waste water solids. When it failed, sewer gas blew a hatch in the roof of the digester building, causing sludge to spill onto the ground, he said, noting that the plant also had no emergency power supply for its pumps.
“We have backups for most of our pumps around town. I was shocked to see the disarray. The chlorine tanks were outside and corroded after a few years, and the bar screens were frozen because ‘they had them outside, and that’s what captures all the debris in the water,’ Conrad added.
He said that having seen firsthand the deteriorating condition of the plant – and fearing for the health and safety of his workers, townspeople and local waterways – it was obvious to him that these repairs couldn’t wait to be done.
“I think a lot of people in North Tonawanda are paying pretty high water bills. Plus it would be disastrous, not just financially, but environmentally,” Conrad said.