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Auburn engineers working to upgrade wastewater system: What does that mean for residents?

  • / Updated:
  • Rebecca Swift 

There are four areas in the city of Auburn where catch-basins, the grates that take storm water off the street, collect into pipes. 

Those pipes traditionally go to a stormwater treatment facility, then they go to rivers, like the Owasco, streams or other waterways, according to the city engineer.

But there are sections of the city where catch basins tie directly to the sanitary sewer to wastewater treatment plants, he said.

“This is an issue because when you get heavy rains, those flows become extremely difficult to manage at the wastewater treatment plant,” said Director of  Municipal Utilities Seth Jensen. “We actually have four combined sewer overflow facilities that activate and sewer and stormwater are partially treated and discharged to the river directly.”

In those areas, the buildings that are designed to activate during wet weather don’t fully filter that water. 

“These facilities are large swirl concentrators,” he added. “Big Round tanks that the flow goes into. It swirls around and separates the heavy or floating material. Then it leaves there and goes right into the river.”

This project would eliminate two of the four facilities where this happens. There will be more sewer separation so they won’t activate.

“The other two systems that we’re keeping, we’re going to install advanced disinfection treatment to them,” he added. “So if they do activate in the future, they will get a much higher level of treatment. So when they discharge to the river, there will be no pathogens associated with that discharge.”

How big of an inconvenience will this be to the public?

“We’ll likely be sending letters to all effected residents, that this will be happening in their front yards,” Jensen added. “We will be disturbing the curb appeal in some cases for a year to a year and a half, so they’ll have to be patient. But at the end of the day, they’ll have brand new roads. And brand new infastructure to rely on for another 100 years.”

Jensen presented this to council a couple of weeks ago. There is a grant available that will cover half of the $22.4 million project. To accept the $11.2 million grant, council will need to bond the entire contract and approve it this spring.