By Nicole A. Elliott Staff writer

SYLVAN BEACH — The village is planning a $6 million renovation to its more than 30-year-old sewer treatment plant that would modernize equipment and allow for more efficient operation.

Chief Operator William DeFazio said it would be the first time in more than three decades that major work would be done to the treatment plant at 3100 Vienna Road, near Fish Creek.

Since increased septic failures caused the creation of the East Oneida Lake Water Pollution Abatement Project back in 1977, the sewer treatment plant has provided sewer services to residents and businesses along the eastern region of Oneida Lake, as well as protected aquatic ecosystems in the area.

The treatment plant serves 2,860.27 units, which includes residences and businesses in the village, portions of the Town of Vienna, Verona and the towns of Sullivan and Lenox in Madison County. Construction of an additional extension in the hamlet of Bridgeport in Madison County is also being planned, which will also bring additional units to the system, village officials said. The number of additional units was not available. Treated sewage is dicharged into Fish Creek, which co-mingles with the Erie Canal on the village’s east side.

DeFazio said unless there is public disapproval of the project, he expects the resolution for construction to pass with a permissive referendum. Once paperwork is finalized, work should begin this spring, he said, although he was unable to provide an exact date. Construction would be on-going for about two years with no interruption to services.

DeFazio said the sewer treatment plant has "had a lot of repair work and replacements" to equipment performed over its more than 30-year life span, but that new technology has made upgrades to the system a necessity. Several of the system’s components had an average life expectancy of about 25 years, and now that they’re about 35 years old, most of the parts aren’t even made anymore, he said.

"They don’t make a lot of the equipment we have anymore" so a repair or replacement "is not possible," DeFazio said. "And it’s wasteful to keep things running the way they are. Now the machinery is driven by new processors and controls, and they use a lot less power."

Upgrades proposed to the sewer treatment plant include changing the chlorination system from gas to liquid chlorine, going to a new control system for better and more constant distribution, high-efficiency motors and new screening and grit removal at the inflow building, as well as a new roof, DeFazio said. Prior to the upgrades, the non-potable water system, which reuses treated water in the treatment process, will be repaired. Repairs to the water system are underway.

The sewer plant was originally designed and built to accommodate increased capacity, but DeFazio said currently the system is not even half-way to full capacity. That’s why the upgrades are important to allow more efficient operation of the system, he said.

"With today’s technology, the system could be running at half the speed it is now, and we don’t need it operating to full capacity," DeFazio said.

Because the original $32 million debt to build the treatment plant has been paid, DeFazio said the new project would have "little effect" on taxpayers. The project would be paid off in 2014 and 2017, village officials said.