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Watertown proceeding with plans to produce methane gas

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City officials hope to obtain a $5 million grant to pay for overhauling Watertown’s wastewater treatment plant to turn its sludge into methane gas.

Last week, Water Superintendent Michael J. Sligar met with New York State Energy Research and Development Authority officials to talk about the progress of the $7 million to $8 million project.

Using a $586,000 NYSERDA grant, the city hopes to complete the pre-design work by year’s end and begin the final design stage next spring. If all goes well, construction could start later next year.

In December, the city received the $586,000 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.

Plans call for retiring the plant’s sludge incinerator process, producing a Class A bio-solid for land disposal and maximizing methane gas production. 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.

It also would save $250,000 annually in electricity and fuel costs by transforming the wastewater treatment plant and reducing 335 carbon metric tons in greenhouse gases a year.

“That’s a big deal,” Mr. Sligar said.

Mr. Sligar said NYSERDA seems to be on board with the project after last week’s discussion. In August, the city applied for a maximum of a $5 million grant from the state agency that would go toward the project. The city needs to contribute 25 percent of the cost, but Mr. Sligar’s department continues to look for other funding sources, he said.

The city should hear in December whether the $5 million NYSERDA grant application is successful.

The project has become a campaign issue, with Councilman Jeffrey M. Smith bringing it up in his re-election bid as one of the city’s accomplishments while he has been in office.

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