The City and Town of Plattsburgh have worked out an agreement that allows the city to have its compost facility available as a backup for sludge disposal. We applaud the cooperation that resolved this sticky situation.
It isn’t the leaders of the two communities who deserve the credit; in fact, their posturing contributed to delaying the resolution for months.
The situation, in brief, is this: The City of Plattsburgh used to process its sludge at a compost plant located off Rugar Street in the Town of Plattsburgh. But that was shut down in 2004 after years of odor complaints. The city switched to shipping its sludge out to landfill facilities. But in recent years, city officials have grown concerned that the sludge could get turned away from landfills or that the cost could become prohibitive. A backup plan was needed.
In 2011, the city received a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation permit amendment for a new alkaline treatment to process sludge, emphasizing that it would be used only if other disposal means evaporated. Then it asked the town for permission to operate the compost plant, if needed.
What followed was a series of moratoriums while the town worked out a Solid Waste Management Facility Law. It certainly makes sense for any community to have restrictions of this type in place to protect the property and well-being of its residents.
Had Town Supervisor Bernie Bassett and City Mayor Donald Kasprzak been amiable right from the start, an agreement would probably have been worked out quickly. But, as often happens between those two, prickly words were exchanged.
“I continue to be baffled by the efforts of town officials to throw roadblocks into the process of having an environmentally sound backup plan,” Kasprzak said, at one point.
Behind the scenes, however, the people who were working out the details did so with cooperation, basing decisions on facts and compromising to shape an agreement. Planning Department head Phil Von Bargen and City Environmental Manager Jon Ruff worked out a plan, which was approved by the Town Planning Board, led by Robert Pearl. The professionalism and hard work exhibited by all those officials is an example to other communities that have to deal with a potentially contentious situation.
The five-year permit produced from their efforts includes more than 20 conditions designed to ensure that residents are protected. Those include restrictions on the amount of sludge processed and where it comes from (the city and the Town of Peru only), formation of a Citizens Advisory Committee (three town residents, three city residents) and establishment of a 24-hour odor-complaint hotline. A number of equipment mandates are also included.
It is a well-defined plan that even includes a way for the town to shut the plant down in the event of odor issues.
City and town residents can have confidence in their future comfort, thanks to this cooperation success story.