New start for sewage plant as major repairs get underway

By Erika Mahoney

New start for sewage plant as major repairs get underway

August 13, 2013 Updated Aug 13, 2013 at 11:34 AM EDT

Vestal, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Major repairs are set to begin at the Binghamton-Johnson City Joint Sewage Treatment Plant, one of the most critical facilities in Broome County.

The $90 million project comes after nearly two years of behind-the-scenes work.

"The last couple of years, we've been doing a lot of work, but it wasn't necessarily obvious to the public," said Binghamton City Engineer Philip Krey. "A lot of design work has been going on, a lot of studies."

Soon, those efforts will be obvious to the community.

On Monday, a steady stream of trucks moved in and out of the plant, as crews prepare for demolition.

"We're going to be removing the bio-media from the cells and we are going to salvage that, save what we can so we can re-use it, when the plant is rebuilt," said Krey. "Once that is removed, we are going to be removing the defective walls and the cells."

The repairs are needed after the plant was delivered two blows in 2011.

"2011 was a very difficult and challenging year," said Plant Superintendent Catherine Young.

In May of that year, a wall to multiple treatment cells collapsed suddenly.

A lawsuit over what caused that to happen continues and includes more than a dozen defendants.

"To have the flood hit in September, it was just another difficult challenge for the plant," Young said. "There was quite a bit of electrical equipment that was damaged in the flood, and the electrical equipment basically operates all of the plant."

Now, Young is trying to put those challenges behind her as the repair phase moves forward.

Binghamton and Johnson City have approved bonding for the reconstruction.

"When it's all said and done, we're talking close to $90 million," said Krey.

It's a price tag that will cover repairing the defective walls, repairing the flood-damaged portions of the plan and the construction of a new flood wall.

The demolition is expected to take eight months. The rehabilitation project is set to begin in April 2014, and will include repairs to the secondary treatment system and with structural, mechanical and electrical upgrades.

"There has been much consideration given to the design, and I think we will be better because of it."

The goal is to have the plant returned to normal by the end of 2017.

Young said the Federal Emergency Management Agency will be covering the costs for the repairs to the portions of the plant damaged by the September 2011 floods. The costs will be reimbursed gradually, as the projects are completed.

Officials hope to be reimbursed for the wall collapse if the lawsuits are successful.

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