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State Senator Tours Wastewater Plant And Learns About Plans To Make It A Tourist Attraction

The Plattsburgh Water Resource Recovery plant was built in 1973 at the confluence of Lake Champlain and the Saranac River.  Mayor Chris Rosenquest recently brought state Senator Dan Stec to the facility for a tour and to discuss making the plant a must-see visit for residents and visitors.

Mayor Rosenquest, a Democrat, met Senator Stec, a Republican from the 45th district, just outside the main entrance of the plant. He explained it’s not just the city’s wastewater that’s treated at the facility.   “We treat the leach water out of Casella’s landfill, six lines that come into the city of Plattsburgh for water treatment. And then any time they do pump outs septic pump outs septic tanks come here and they also offload here. Jon!”  
Jonathan Ruff:  “Good afternoon.”
Mayor: “Watch your step here. There’s a step up and then another step down.”

City Environmental Manager Jonathan Ruff greeted the group and pointed out key plant operations using a scale model located in the lobby.  

“The plant’s built for 16 million gallons a day," Ruff said. "We’re probably doing about five. So we’ve got a lot of capacity here. About a million of it comes from the Town of Plattsburgh. The wastewater comes in the front of the plant. Goes through a bunch of pretreatment where we get out a lot of debris and other stuff. It then goes into primary clarifiers where solids settle out. Into aeration tanks where we grow a bunch of bugs, bunch of microorganisms, that will eat the fine solids and dissolved organic contamination. And then the secondary clarifiers we send all those bugs back out recycle them so they can eat again and the water that then heads out of there goes into a clearing contact tank where we disinfect it. Then we add another chemical to it to take the disinfectant out and then it goes to the river and lake.”
Stec: “Do you do any UV here?”
Ruff:  “We do not. We’re using sodium hypochlorite. We’re actually getting ready to build a new disinfection building right here. We’re going to stick with the bleach.”

The group then headed into the central plant operations, as Ruff led a walk down an interior hallway. 

“The first thing we have to do is screen the debris out of the wastewater," Ruff said. "So after all that stuff gets screened we have to get out the grit: sand, eggshells, coffee grounds because that will harm our pumps. It gets collected and comes off a conveyor and out into that dumpster. So that’s considered pretreatment.”

After walking through a warren of treatment areas to separate sludge and biosolids Ruff eventually took the group outside. 

“You’re trying to do two things here," Ruff explained. "You’re trying to introduce a lot of oxygen which is why you have this violent mixing but you’re also trying to make sure all your microorganisms are evenly distributed throughout the tank so they can come into contact with this wastewater as it’s flowing through so they can feed on it.  See the water that’s coming over the weirs is relatively clear. So it’s had over 90 percent of the solids and 90 percent of the dissolved organics removed and from here it goes to that concrete tank for disinfection.  We going to head back the way we came.”  

Back inside the plant Lab Director and Water Resource Chemist Janelle Henry described their monitoring of microorganisms in the sludge. 

“Different organisms will live at young stages of sludge production," Henry said. "Other organisms we’ll see at older sludge ages. And when we have older sludge basically we know that we’re going to start seeing lower nutrient content. And what’ll happen then is we need to provide some more food for those bugs to keep living and producing younger populations.”

The city is investing $20 million in plant. Ruff says they want to transform the look of the plant and make it a visitor attraction. 

“We’re not going can’t afford to move it," Ruff said. "We can’t hide it. So we need to embrace it. This courtyard out here that you entered through we’re going to be enclosing with some really cool architectural stuff and it’s going to be the initial phases of an interpretive center. Then we’re going to have stairs and an elevator that’ll lift you up on top of the plant inside a glass enclosure so that you can actually see the whole process as it’s performed in real time.  So you get to learn and interact with it here and get up on the plant and really see it happening.”

Mayor Rosenquest led public tours of the water treatment facility in late May to highlight city investments in the plant and its importance to the region.