Oswego wastewater plant (copy)

Councilors Monday tentatively approved more than $7 million in improvements to the city of Oswego's Eastside Wastewater Treatment Plant, pictured above in 2016. 

OSWEGO — The city’s Eastside Wastewater Treatment Plant is poised to undergo about $7 million in upgrades in order to comply with a 2015 consent order handed down by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Port City officials tentatively approved accepting four bids totaling $7,058,861 for improvements at the east side plant, including electrical upgrades, construction work, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC). The city Administrative Services Committee unanimously approved the bids Monday, and the full Common Council is scheduled to vote on the contracts next week.

The more than $7 million in upgrades are the latest in a years long effort to improve the city’s wastewater treatment operation, which is under the oversight of the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) due to mismanagement in the past.   

Mayor Billy Barlow previously said the work is part of a 2015 state DEC Consent Order for the Eastside Wastewater Treatment Plant, which lists a variety of projects the city needs to complete in order to comply with regulations. In January 2018, Barlow said “the amount of investment needed to catch up to where (the east side) plant needs to be is massive.”

Barlow said Tuesday the consent order is a “pinpointed document” that lays out mandated improvements to the east side facility, which are identified in a previously completed asset management plan for the facility.

“We planned to make these investments anyway,” Barlow said of the plant upgrades. “They’re much needed improvements and some of them are already well underway.”

CH2M, which was acquired by Jacobs Engineering in late 2017, designed the upgrades and bid documents last year, and the city plans to hire Jacobs to oversee the project for $699,181. In Jan. 2018, the council spent $470,000 to have CH2M design and develop the scope of work and bid documents.

City Engineering Technician Bob Johnson said Jacobs, then known as CH2M, developed the asset management plan for the east side plant, and recommended hiring the company to stay on for construction inspections.

“For the continuity, you really do want the engineering firm that did the design work to do the inspection work,” Johnson told councilors Monday, noting the scope of work comes from a consent order for the city’s Eastside Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The most expensive portion of the project is the electrical, which Syracuse-based Patricia Electric will complete for nearly $3.5 million. Oswego-based J&A Mechanical is tackling the plumbing and HVAC portions of the contract for $932,000, while John R. Dudley Construction was awarded the general contracting bid for $1.97 million for what officials called “general site work”.

Camden Group President Ken Scherrieble, who manages the city’s wastewater plants, said the HVAC systems at the east side plant are “pretty much nonexistent,” and much of the facility does not have heat because it was initially designed to incinerate waste, which generated heat. The HVAC system would also ventilate the area much better, creating a safer environment for workers.

Council President Rob Corradino, R-7th Ward, said the city in years past was not sufficiently identifying and planning maintenance and upgrades at its water and wastewater facilities.

“We have to continually look at it, fund it and replace it, because there’s always going to be a need there,” Corradino said.

Scherrieble said over the last three years the city has spent about $2 million on upgrading systems throughout the wastewater facilities.

“Where we are today compared to where we were three and one-half to four years ago, it’s a whole different world,” he told councilors Monday.

Johnson said the previously completed asset management plan identified each item in the plant and attaches a value to the items in terms of function, age and prioirity, with the current work determined to be “high priority.”

There would be more projects to follow in the coming years, Johnson told the council, noting “there’s a laundry list of upgrades and modifications to the east side plant” that are necessary.

The city plans to seek grant funding in the near future to cover some of the costs of the work, Barlow said, with Johnson adding the project is also eligible for a long-term bonding arrangement through the state Environmental Facilities Corporation (EFC).

City officials Monday also agreed to spend $403,217 for Scriba Electric to complete improvements to the Westside Wastewater Treatment Plant’s Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system improvements. Scherrieble said the SCADA system, which he called “the brains of the operation,” was “failing pretty much on a daily basis.”

The city reached a settlement with the EPA in May 2010 to resolve long-standing problems with unpermitted sewer overflows from the Westside Wastewater Treatment System in violation of the Clean Water Act, and in recent years has completed most of a nearly $90 million overhaul of the system.

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