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City working on Watertown’s methane gas project

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City officials are proceeding with plans to overhaul Watertown’s wastewater treatment plant by turning its sludge into methane gas.

In December, the city received a $585,646 grant to decommission the sludge incinerator at its pollution control plant and replace it with an expanded anaerobic digester and microturbine that will produce alternative energy on site.

On Monday night, Water Superintendent Michael J. Sligar told the City Council that he would like to have authorization to hire GHD Consulting Services, Cazenovia, to design the project and assist in its development. He said he hopes the council will act on his request during Monday night’s meeting.

Mr. Sligar said he expects the grant, provided by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, will pay for a quarter to a third of the cost of the overhaul. The city must contribute about a 25 percent match — or $146,500 — to the project, he said, noting that the city will continue to look for more public funding.

“Finance is the key for the project,” he said.

Plans call for retiring the plant’s sludge incinerator process, producing a Class A bio-solid for land disposal and maximizing methane gas production, Mr. Sligar said. It would get rid of 45,000 wet tons of sludge a year and instead produce 65,000 cubic feet of digest and methane gas a day.

Construction would start this summer and the new system would be in operation later this year.

Mr. Sligar brought up the digester project as part of a four-year, $10.5 million capital project plan for his department. Council members informally agreed to several of the proposed projects.

Other projects would include:

n Installing a $6.1 million wastewater disinfection system required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Health. The city has been working on the project for a number of years to comply with regulations that go into effect in October.

n Spending about $913,000 to make major repairs to the 250,000-gallon water tank at Thompson Park. Work is expected to be completed this summer.

n Installing $240,000 worth of new equipment to eliminate ice blockage at the city’s hydroelectric plant. The equipment would make the turbines run more efficiently and help prevent ice blockages like the one that caused the loss of $125,000 to $130,000 in hydroelectric revenues this winter.

n Purchasing $300,000 in dredging equipment to rid the coagulation basin of sediment annually. A pole barn that would store the equipment off season would be built at a cost of $75,000.

The council delayed taking action on spending $1.95 million to replace the city’s 1,670 water meters over the next three years.

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