BALLSTON SPA – The Saratoga County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution this week authorizing a formal agreement with Albany County to jointly finance, build and operate a “regional biosolids handling facility.”
Sewer District Executive Director Dan Rourke said the total project cost would be “north of $40 million.” He declined to provide further details until Albany County lawmakers vote on a separate but related resolution later this month.
In an email, Saratoga County Deputy Administrator Chad Cooke said this week’s resolution “authorizes the creation of an agreement between the two counties for the construction, operation and governance of the regional biosolids facility. The evolution of this project is still in its infancy so details related to hard costs for construction and operations as well as construction dates have not been established.”
The Saratoga County Sewer District has an annual budget of roughly $21 million.
Through an extensive network of pumping stations and pipes, the county transports 13.5 million gallons of wastewater each day to its treatment plant in Mechanicville, according to Rourke.
Last year, when negotiations between the two counties were in the early stages, Rourke explained that water is removed at the Mechanicville plant and yields 11 tons of dried biosolids on a daily basis.
“We need to get rid of it,” he said.
Currently, Saratoga County contracts with Casella Organics to ship biosolids to an incinerator in Connecticut and other locations, Rourke said.
He added that the new agreement is intended to share costs with Albany County and to possibly “generate revenue” in the future.
Timothy Murphy, executive director of Albany County’s Water Purification District, said last year that he oversees the operation of two sewage treatment plants and active incinerators. But the incineration process is expensive, he said.
Murphy explained that biosolids transported to a new “regional digester” facility would be further broken down through a process called “anaerobic digestion,” and ultimately result in “substantial savings” for both counties.
“We’re always looking at ways to minimize costs,” Murphy admitted.
He said the digester facility could specialize in processing “high-strength organic waste,” such as that disposed by restaurants and bakeries.
In turn, according to Murphy, methane gas from the regional digester could be utilized for energy production.
Albany County officials are eager to partner with Saratoga County as soon as possible, Murphy added.
“This is a project that has gotten tremendous support,” he said.
Before taking the vote on Tuesday, during the public comment period, the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors were given an earful from a woman about the what she described as an urgent need for more funding to expand bus services.
“I have this map that I got from a local Stewart’s,” started Saratoga Springs resident Darlene McGraw, “and there’s a whole bunch of businesses down here—Saratoga Lake, Malta—that you can’t get there using public transportation.”
“People think I’m crazy, and I tell them ‘I know I’m crazy,’ when they say if you can travel anywhere in the United States for three days, where would you go?” McGraw continued. “I want to go to Clifton Park for three days…I would love to go see southern Saratoga County and use public transportation without having to call our Sheriff’s Department to help me get across Route 146.”
McGraw explained afterward that she is unable to drive. She is as a traumatic brain injury survivor who also has been diagnosed with epilepsy.
She claims that federal law mandates the installation of sidewalks on all roads that have been significantly “altered” by construction projects, including many local roads.
The supervisors should be allocating funds for “either bus lines or more accessible routes,” McGraw said.
“We can’t keep building all these condos and all these businesses without having everybody be able to get a fair shake and deal at it—not just people with cars,” she told the county leaders.
Moments later, Clifton Park Supervisor Phil Barrett approached McGraw and politely replied to her that she is “not crazy.”