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Zinc, phosphorous ongoing waste-water woes

Published 4:34 pm, Tuesday, November 26, 2013
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Ongoing issues with zinc and phosphorous tainted an otherwise positive report on waste management presented to the newly elected Town Council Nov. 20.

James Rogers, superintendent of New Canaan's Waste Water Treatment Plant and Transfer Station, received a unanimous vote to go forward with a new solid waste disposal contract, which he said looks to save the town more than $100,000 in the first year. However, Councilman John Engel brought up the ongoing issue of zinc and phosphorous levels being too high with the waste water treatment plant.

"In my mind, it's the elephant in the room," Engel said. "My understanding is we've got a $7 million liability."

"It's going to cost us 7 or 8 million dollars for the phosphorous removal," Rogers said.

Unfortunately, the issue of the zinc is a far more complicated one.

"We're under administrative order first to remove the zinc," he said, however, "there is no technology out there right now that can bring us up to the levels the (Environmental Protection Agency) wants," which is 46 parts per billion.

"This is EPA driven," he said. "They can't write our permit knowing we can't make that 46 parts per billion. We're in limbo. "I've argued the point with the DEP ... There's no test that we can do to prove (no) detriment to ... the stream," which is where the refreshed waste water is discharged. "The stream is fine."

Asked where the zinc originated, Rogers said, "The source is it's coming from the water company," which uses it to help keep corrosion under control.

"They're not going to make that change, and I know the EPA is not going to force them to do it," he said. "We'll find a happy medium."

He said it will likely provide nine years before it expects the work completed. "To me, the longer we push it out, the more technology is going to be out there for us," Rogers said.

The phosphorous, he said, "is just normal from detergent (and) natural products ... There's no one specific thing we can do to remove the phosphorous," although he said residents could be made more aware of products they use and their effect.

"Phosphorous causes algae pools," noted Councilman Sven Englund. "In the Sound, they're trying to keep the algae pools down."

The new solid waste disposal vendor, Enviro Express, which currently services Westport and Trumbull, will replace City Carting for a five-year contract.

"We're presently paying $87.60 a ton," Rogers said, with the price dropping to $72 for 2014, and rising up only to $81.03 by 2018, for an estimated total of $3,057,920 at an average of 8,000 tons of solid waste per year.

"We collect roughly $400,000 a year in revenue from the garbage men, which offsets that price," Rogers said.

He attributed the savings to aggressive bidding. "Enviro wants to get into this area and Enviro has been dealing directly with the burn plants ... they they're going to get a better price than they have in the past."

Most of New Canaan's solid waste will be taken to a burn plant in Bridgeport, with some going up to Peekskill, N.Y.

Jarret Liotta is a freelancer writer.