December 19, 2012

Town approves city compost plant permit

Town allows city operation,if needed, with conditions


---- — PLATTSBURGH — The Town of Plattsburgh Planning Board has approved a permit — with numerous conditions — that would allow the City of Plattsburgh to operate its wastewater sludge compost facility.

The compost plant, located off Rugar Street near Interstate 87, closed in 2005 after numerous odor complaints and has been dormant every since.

The possible resumption of operations has been a point of contention between the city and town on multiple occasions since then, with the city saying that idea is only a backup option in case landfills can’t accept sludge anymore.


The city needed a permit because the town passed a local law in 2011 regulating the operation of solid-waste facilities. 

Town Supervisor Bernie Bassett said that while the permit process took several months, both sides worked together for a successful outcome.

”The Planning Board and (Planning Department head) Phil Von Bargen worked very closely with (City Environmental Manager) Jon Ruff to resolve the issues as best they could,” he said.

”We hope to be able to meet the city’s needs without problems for the residents of the Town of Plattsburgh.”

City Mayor Donald Kasprzak said he was pleased the issue was resolved in a cooperative manner.

”I appreciate the efforts of the Town Planning Board, Phil Von Bargen and Jon Ruff during this process,” he said.

The city is reviewing the conditions of the permit approval and how they pertain to the city’s long-term plans and goals for the facility, Kasprzak said.

”There are no plans at this point to pursue operation of the plant until we have reviewed all conditions of the approval.

”We have been true to our word in that we were seeking a legitimate backup plan for sludge disposal. That has always been my priority.”


The city received a permit earlier this year from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to operate an alkaline treatment process at the plant.

Sludge from the city’s wastewater treatment plant would be treated with alkaline materials to raise the pH and temperature to kill sufficient pathogens to allow the finished product to be used as a soil additive.

The city first applied for a town permit in March. The Planning Board found that application incomplete in May and, after additional information was provided by the city, again in July.

The application was deemed finally complete by the Planning Board at its August meeting.

That led to a public hearing on the permit in October. The town didn’t receive any written or verbal comments on the permit at that time.


The new permit from the town comes with a lengthy list of more than 20 conditions. That includes alkaline treatment as the only treatment process allowed. 

The limit is for 40 wet tons per day/280 tons per week, and only sludge from the city and Town of Peru plants will be accepted. The plant previously treated much larger amounts, which included sludge from locations well out of this area, so the city had little control over the material to be processed.

The concern will always be what happens if the operation does cause a problem, Bassett said. The stricter limits on quantity and source should help prevent that, he said.


The permit requires requires formation of a Citizens Advisory Committee to determine whether any odor complaints are legitimate. The committee will have three members who live in the town and three who live in the city.

The city is required to establish a 24-hour odor-complaint hotline and provide a odor-complaint form to be delivered to the Planning Department and Advisory Board.

An alarm system to signal if the exhaust fan at the plant shuts down is also required. The plant must cease operation if that occurs.

A weather station is to be installed, so data will be available as to conditions at the time of possible odor issues.

Spill-contingency plans and disaster plans need to be placed on file.

The permit also calls for the town to have authority to demand the plant temporarily shut down in the event of odor complaints, after consultation with the Advisory Committee, DEC and the town water and wastewater director.

The permit is in effect for five years from the date it is issued, or until any state or federal permits expire, whichever happens first.

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