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Highland Falls Leaders Urge Partnering With West Point For Wastewater Facility

Officials from a village in New York’s Orange County are proposing joint operation of a wastewater facility with their neighbor — the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Highland Falls officials say a shared-service approach would save millions of dollars and protect the environment, namely the Hudson River.

Highland Falls officials are calling for a partnership with West Point for joint operation of a new wastewater facility that would be constructed at the village’s current wastewater treatment site, which sits some 20 feet higher from the Hudson River than the academy’s current plant. Village Mayor Patrick Flynn says the $70 million taxpayer-funded facility would provide shared waste and storm draining for the military academy and surrounding community, saving on operating costs.

“We can save West Point as well as the country a great deal of money over the next 50 years by joining our wastewater operations,” Flynn says.

He says the plan could save $1 million a year during the 50-year contract. That calculation, says Flynn, comes from Veolia, the largest wastewater operator in North America, which would partially design such a project. Flynn says the idea of jointly operating a wastewater facility in the village is environmentally sound.

“Because we are not on government land, because we are in the village, one of the big benefits of combining here is that we have to heed the DEC directives that ensures immediate attention to any problems that the sewer plant may have with dumping into the river,” Flynn says. “Over the years, unfortunately, due to heavy storms and whatnot, the West Point plant has had to dump into the river several times.”

He says the state Department of Environmental Conservation cannot fine the federal government for environmental damage, for violating its discharge permit. Plus, Flynn says an RFP issued by West Point has called for privatization of all utilities at the Academy, which would continue to shield the school from DEC penalties.

“We need one single thing. We need the RFP, which is already on the street and has been responded to, to include the village,” Dodson says.

That’s Village of Highland Falls engineer for special projects John Dodson. West Point is his alma mater.

“And partnering is really the only way to reduce costs and give better services in the world we live in today,” says Dodson.

As to whether the Academy would consider the village’s proposal, West Point spokeswoman Emily Kelly would say only this.

“West Point is moving forward with the Army-approved military wastewater construction project,” says Kelly.

Again, Mayor Flynn.

“We’re looking to move forward with West Point, not at West Point, not against West Point. We want to work with them to come up with the best solution,” Flynn says. “If the best solution is what they’ve already come up with, then let’s move forward. But we want to make sure that everything’s looked at and that our best foot forward is put forward.”

David Church is Orange County Planning Department commissioner and executive director of the Orange County Water Authority. He says the county fully supports the proposed partnership.

“We applaud the Village of Highland Falls for being entrepreneurial and smart about offering up a partnership with an essential institution for our county and our country, which is West Point, by taking this sort of entrepreneurial approach to upgrade essential infrastructure and also include smart aspects such as energy efficiency and the microgrid project,” Church says.

The plan also has the support of the Ramapo/Catskill Group of the Sierra Club and Clearwater as well as the local union of government employees at West Point.  

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