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Council Committee Pulls Plug On Sewer Hook Up Request

OSWEGO, NY – The Common Council’s Administrative Services Committee tabled a request Monday night from Oswego Town.

The town sought to hook its two student housing projects into the city’s Westside Waste Water Treatment Plant.

Approximately an hour prior to the vote, councilors (with the exception of Third Ward rep Sue Sweet) met with representatives from the DEC to discuss their options regarding the quagmire sewage issue between the city and the town.

James Burke, environmental engineer, regional water manager for the DEC, center, addresses Oswego councilors sewage concerns Monday night. At left is Mike Joyce (R-Seventh Ward) and at right is Mike Myers (R-Second Ward).Seventh Ward Councilor Mike Joyce arranged the meeting in the hope of finding some answers to the issues.

At the committee meeting, Joyce said he wasn’t in favor of the town’s request.

“I’m not against the town of Oswego or the college. We need to finish up the studies done by the DEC, we need to do proper metering and take care of our current facility before we get charged excessive fees for not complying and also we need to protect the taxpayer of the city of Oswego; that’s what we need to do,” he said. “We have to take care of business here at home first. I cannot support this at this time knowing we have a problem pumping raw sewage into Lake Ontario during heavy rainfall.”

The metering the alderman referred to is the system by which Oswego Town and SUNY Oswego don’t actually measure sewage flow, it is measured by how much water is used.

First Ward Councilor Connie Cosemento pointed out that the town, like the college, has offered to help the city correct its overflow problems.

“The developers, through the Town of Oswego, are willing to contribute an approximate amount to help solve the overflow problem,” Oswego Town Supervisor Victoria Mullen said in a letter to the city council. “It must be noted that all sewage from the Town of Oswego expansion will be storm water free, as it has been since our first connections in the late 1990s.”

Oswego Town Board member Greg Herrmann told the committee “the developers are anxious to get construction started this summer and hopefully be completed by fall 2009. Their ultimate goal is to get hooked into a sewage system. This is one of the last steps in the process to get the project rolling.”

Cosemento pointed out that the DEC representatives said they’re willing to work with the city and the town.

“I am not interested in loading up the river and or the lake with raw sewage,” Cosemento said. “But, I am confident the DEC will monitor whatever the city does in conjunction with SUNY and the town. I am interested in watching our community grow and prosper.”

“I would like to see us enter into not necessarily an agreement, but a relationship with the town to go forward based on some of the test we’re going to get back shortly,” she continued. “I would support this with some reservations.”

The council could use some more information, she said, making a motion to table the resolution. Joyce seconded and the committee agreed (Councilor Mike Myers cast the lone no vote).

“It’s not an issue of capacity,” Herrmann noted after the meeting. “We’ve been told (by the DEC) there’s 20 days out of the year the city has an unpermitted overflow. The majority of that is from their storm water. Everything that comes from the town right now is 100 percent sewage, we don’t send any storm water, ours is a closed system.”

Tony Leotta, city engineer, told him the city is looking for ways to correct the overflows, Herrmann noted.

“Part of the town’s argument is that we don’t feel that the clean up of the storm sewer on the west side of the city is the town’s responsibility, or should it be the college’s responsibility,” he said.

The town currently pays about $84,000 in sewage fees to the city, according to Mullen’s letter.

The west side plant currently uses 3 million of its 4 million gallons a day during dry weather, Herrmann pointed out.

“The capacity is there. Yes, there is 20 or so days that they overflow and that’s a problem. I disagree that it’s just raw sewage. From what we’ve been told it’s at least partially treated,” he said.

The two Oswego Town projects are looking at about 30,000 gallons of sewage a day, Herrmann said.

Even with the college, the amount wouldn’t cause the west side plant to go over its capacity, he explained.

The city, town and college could pay for the upgrades based on the amounts they use, he added.

“It sounds like a very logical solution to help the city out. The projects are a benefit to the tax base; it’s about $25 million – it helps the town, it helps the city, it helps the school district taxpayers and the county taxpayers. It helps a lot of different people,” he said.

According to Mullen’s letter: The first housing project, located on County Route 7, has an estimated sewage flow of 30,600 gallons per day. The second, located on Fred Haynes Boulevard, has an estimated sewage flow of 34,200 gallons per day. All costs associated with the connection to the sewer system would be the responsibility of the developers.

The completion of these two projects would help insure that SUNY Oswego will continue to thrive, she continued.

“The sewer system expansion funded by the developers could very well clear the way for the development of city of Oswego property on the Johnson and Byer roads as well,” Mullen wrote.