By Kellen M. Quigley
Ten days after the incident at the village of Springville wastewater treatment plant, the Board of Trustees were updated on what happened and what needs to be done moving forward.
At Tuesday’s regular village board meeting, Rich Zifra, chief operator at the treatment plant, was there to explain the situation and answer any questions about the plant.
“No one feels worse about this than me because I’m the chief operator and responsibility falls on me for that,” he said. “Trust me, if this could have been prevented this, it would have been prevented. It could have happened at any time.”
However, Zifra said he wasn’t entirely surprised it did happen.
Two weeks earlier, he said they had been having some issues at the plant at they were in the process of trying to remedy it.
“We did contact the manufacturer to let them know and to look for direction from there,” he said. Zifra said it took a couple days for the manufacturer to return his calls to find how they should proceed. He said that began Jan. 30.
“There was greater than 5 percent methane within the air that holds up that dome, and underneath that is a bladder that holds in the methan,” he explained. “On Feb. 1, I noticed the center column that floats on top of the dome was a foot higher than it should be.”
Zifra said he determined the gas pipes were frozen, choking off the line that allows the gas to go through. He said he needed to pour hot water over the pipes to
On Feb. 4, Zifra said he ran fans in the digester for six hours to purge the system and then ran it in normal operation. The next day, the methane levels were up again so he ran one fan to clear the system. He said one fan couldn’t hold back the methane gas on both digesters.
“Then we know what happened on Saturday the 9th,” he said.
Zifra said the issue could be traced back to July of 2011 when a line that goes through the digester broke, which could have cost at least $50,000 to fix. He said he came up with a makeshift repair that could feed gas through the system that cost about $700 rather than the tens of thousands to fix it.
“When I decided to do this modification, I contacted the manufacturer and they thought it was a great idea,” Zifra said. “I also ran it by the DEC and they thought it was a great idea, too.”
He said the only incident happened about four years ago on a day much colder than when the plant malfunctioned Feb. 9.
Mayor William Krebs said that because the digester helps reduce the amount of waste coming out the the plant that the village has to dispose of, the incident didn’t affect the operation of the plant actually treating the wastewater.
“It’s like a second stage all by itself,” he said. “What has been affected is this our ability, through this digester, to reduce the amount of sludge we have to transport.”
Krebs said it’s similar to a green initiative to have the digesters and it’s economical to the village that it operates.
Village trustee Alan Chamberlain wondered if the manufacturer has updated the system so that the village can better monitor if there is an issue in the future.
Zifra said the village’s digester is the last one the manufacturer installed before moving to a new type of system.
Krebs said when a new cover was installed on the secondary digester, all the controls were updated.
DPW Superintendent Ken Kostowniak said the plans moving forward are to replace the cover.
“It’s going to look ugly for a while,” he said. “The dome is going to be torn up with the cover hanging down, but we’re going to leave it like that.”
Kostowniak said the village got quotes for a new cover earlier in the week. He said they’re hoping for a fast bid process to get the repairs done soon.
“We’re going to talk about it more with our engineer,” he said. “They’re going to do a study on it and give us our best choices.”