Cortland Council Files Loan Application For $13.5 Million Waste Water Plant Project
The Cortland City Council took its first steps Tuesday night toward a planned multimillion dollar upgrade to the city wastewater treatment facility. The plant serves the city, the Villages of Homer and McGraw and portions of Cortlandville.
According to City Finance Director Mack Cook, the Common Council has approved an application for a $13.5 million dollar low interest loan from the State Environmental Facilities Corporation. The E-F-C is a state funded organization that provides funding and technical support for large public water and sewer infrastructure projects.
The city is looking to update the aging wastewater plant and install new equipment to harness energy that is available in the waste products.
The city is facing new state and federal regulations requiring that steps be taken to reduce the amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus that are being dumped into the nearby Tioughnioga River, which is part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. At the same time the city will soon begin receiving waste from the soon to be built Byrne Dairy processing plant. The plans include installing equipment to convert the Byrne Dairy waste into electricity to power the plant.
Last month the city reported a mechanical failure at plant caused 673 thousand gallons of raw untreated sewage to discharge into the river, the illegal discharge was blamed in part on faulty pump and an alarm. The project includes a new computer system that would help prevent that type of error from reoccurring. The D-E-C may levy fines against the city in connection with the spill, but will likely reduce the fines if the city commits to the upgrades.
Portions of the current plant date back to the early 40’s, the last major updates were done in the early 1990’s.
Cook says the total cost will be $13.5 million update will cut energy usage at the plant by as much as 50%, and the project may be eligible for up to a million dollars in state energy subsidies.
The money to fund the work would be borrowed over 25 to 30 years at an interest rate of 2% a year. The total cost to taxpayers would be about $24 million with interest tacked on. Cook is looking to have the debt exempted from the city’s constitutional tax limit to help maintain the city’s debt ratio.