Money-Loser: Wastewater ban will cost Auburn’s ratepayers next year |

Money-Loser: Wastewater ban will cost Auburn’s ratepayers next year |

Money-Loser: Wastewater ban will cost Auburn’s ratepayers next year

Published: Monday, July 25, 2011, 5:00 AM

Wow! Auburn rocks! The council sure struck a blow against hydrofracking, didn’t it, when it voted July 7 to ban accepting wastewater from natural gas wells at the municipal sewage treatment plant?

Well, not exactly. Not at all, in fact.

What do you mean? It voted to stop treating the polluted wastewater from those controversial wells, right?

Uh, no. The water isn’t coming from horizontal-well hydrofracking — which isn’t going on in New York. It’s from conventional, vertical gas wells that have been operating in Upstate New York for years.

But the Cayuga Anti-Fracking Alliance says the Auburn plant isn’t equipped to handle the high salt concentrations, the radioactive agents and cancer-causing chemicals in the wastewater.

The plant employs a certified laboratory to sample effluent during both high-flow and normal-flow days. Vicky L. Murphy, director of municipal utilities, wrote last month that sampling for 33 “volatiles” (including benzene and toluene) and 13 metals detected no traces of volatiles on a normal flow day. Traces of Radium-226 and the metal barium were detected — in concentrations well below permissible state levels. High-flow testing detected three volatiles, three metals and Radium-226 — all below DEC permissible levels, Murphy said. She also noted that the Auburn plant complies with all state and federal regulations.

How can you be so confident it’s safe?

Auburn has been treating the water for 10 years. The wastewater amounts to less than 1 percent of the plant’s total water flow.

Then why did the council members vote for the ban?

Ask them. Some speculation: Democratic Mayor Mike Quill, a voting member, is up for re-election this year, and anti-fracking advocates have raised quite a fuss. Plus, his opponent is for the ban.

Anyway, what harm can a ban do?

Well, there’s the small matter of the $600,000 or so the city earns each year from the drillers — about one-fifth of the sanitation department’s budget. City residents will have to make it up somehow.

Indeed, on Wednesday, Auburn property owners learned they will be getting an increase in sewer rates. City Manager John Rossi said the unspecified increase was included in next year’s budget because of the anticipated shortfall in revenue from natural gas drillers.

@#$%&*! Can we have a do-over, please?

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Taxpayer51 July 25, 2011 at 7:11AM

The Auburn Mayor and City Council caved to the enviro-wacko crowd. Their vote to ban wastewater had nothing to do with the facts or the impact on taxpayers, but instead with their fear of the (largely from Ithaca) protestors and other squeaky wheels. Its unfortunate for taxpayers and people looking for jobs, but not surprising — they are politicians after all.

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romans 8:37 July 25, 2011 at 7:53AM

Exactly tax…they are politicians first and they will do ANYTHING to get reelected, it matters not if they are small hamlet politicians or Albany or DC they are all first and formost concerned ONLY with getting their sorry butts to stay in office and it doesnt matter what party they are from, vote them all out. As Will Buckley once said ( I’ll paraphrase) he’d rather be governed by the first 200 names in the phonebook than by the current thieving thugs. Politicians are overpaid ( mostly millioniare lawyers) maggots living off the common man.

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and what Congel has done or has not done at the Carousel Center Mall expansion, AKA Destiny USA phase one, Brownfield Cleanup program participant, the The Post-Standard Editorial Board is OK with that?

I only ask because it seems that the The Post-Standard Editorial Board is more interested in the money side of stories than the public health issues side of the stories…

Here is a little hint for the The Post-Standard Editorial Board ‘it ain’t always about the money’…..

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keepwaterclean July 25, 2011 at 8:27AM

The plant would still be dumping, not treating, the salt ultimately into the Seneca River. The plant, designed for treating biological waste, was essentially relying on dilution since running the water through the plant did little or nothing to the waste water. The Seneca is used by farmers for irrigation and by many others for various purposes. It also flows very near some important wells which provide drinking water to considerable numbers of people.

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lattimoron July 25, 2011 at 6:14PM

I would have thought the editorial board of the post standard would have done a little more research into the issue. For example the total revenue this year from the waste water was $150k – much small than 600K. But hey why left the facts stand in the way of a good story?

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artistandy7 July 25, 2011 at 6:44PM

@#$%&*! check your facts please. the gas companies left because they were out of compliance- before the city council had the chance to prohibit them, they were already gone because they broke regulations- the money was already gone- if auburn counted on that money being in the budget they would be screwed because they cannot count on the gas companies to be in compliance with regulations- how many ways do i have to say this? did an actual “reporter” write this editorial piece? because it failed the research test. there is VIDEOTAPE of vicki murphy explaining this to the city council in auburn. go check it out before you write again on this subject, please.

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Harry_Brate_67 July 26, 2011 at 8:10AM

The misguided Auburn City council acted with total disregard to the consequences in their vote on an issue they did not understand and without regard to the recommendations of the city engineer. Instead they responded to the outside non taxpaying mob that invaded the city council meeting. Their lack of knowledge about what they voted on is deplorable. They have not acted in the best interest of Auburn’s taxpayers and they should be ashamed of their cavalier attitude to the taxpayers. Their actions will be remembered both for the added burden they have placed on the taxpayers and the jobs they have put at risk. Just my opinion.

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nyswaterranger July 26, 2011 at 12:05PM

The three members of council cast their votes after recognizing that the city’s wastewater treatment plant was neither designed, maintained nor constructed to accept such water. They recognized that the natural gas drilling companies could not meet the rules and regulations of the plant. In April, the city cited six firms for failing to submit any monitoring reports for some of 2009 and all of 2010. During that time 16 million gallons of flowback fluid was discharged into the plant. Once the city workers started calling their attention to it (spurred on by an article in the NY Times), many stopped delivering–what does that say? The three remaining firms continued to be out of compliance either by continuing their practice of not submitting the required reports or that the wastewater contained pollutant levels that were unacceptable at the plant. All stopped bringing the wastewater before the ban–at Vicky Murphy’s insistence. By that time, the city was making $150,000 over a six-month period. The $600,000 figure is complete conjecture and not rooted in fact. I contend that the three councilors absolutely acted with the interests of their citizens in mind. This money could not be counted upon.
Also, I resent being referred to as a member of an outside non taxpaying mob. I brought my check to pay my city taxes to the comptroller’s office a month ago. In this case, common sense, reason and logic trumped tainted money and corporate greed. It’s about time someone stood up for the people. I commend Mayor Michael Quill and councilors Gilda Brower and Thomas McNabb for making their decisions based on facts and not emotion.

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