City board gives go-ahead for construction of anaerobic digester

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During the last meeting of the year, the city’s Board of Estimate and Contract, unanimously passed measures paving the way for the planned wastewater treatment plant's anaerobic digester to be operational by the end of 2020.

With engineering work already complete, city Commissioner of Public Works Butch Conover said facility construction is expected to begin in January. Anaerobic digestion is a process that breaks down microorganisms in organic materials in a closed, oxygen-free space, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In Rome, essentially, a dome-roofed cylinder tank along with operational equipment will be constructed and installed to handle high-strength waste that will be treated and turned into energy to be returned back into the local power grid, Conover said.

The immediate end result Conover expects being the wastewater treatment plant to be off-grid by the time construction wraps up.

Once in place, the facility capabilities can be expanded in the coming years.

“This will benefit the whole city,” Conover said.

Measures passed Monday morning regarding the project are:

Resolution 287 secured Syracuse-based M.A. Bongiovanni as general contractor for the anaerobic digestion and combined heat and power improvements for an amount not to exceed $11,155,000.

Resolution 286 accepted the bid of Syracuse-based Ridley Electric to perform electric construction work for the anaerobic digestion and combined heat and power improvements for an amount not to exceed $980,000.

Resolution 285 set an agreement with Utica-based H.J. Brandeles Corp. and award a contract for the construction of heating and ventilation system for the anaerobic digestion for an amount not exceeding $528,000.

As previously reported, planning for the project was launched earlier this year, and in addition to energy cost savings for the city, other revenue generating possibilities are planned for including charging industrial clients to dump waste at the facility.

Additionally, a new combined heat and power system will be implemented for increased energy recovery and production from the produced bio-gas, according to a recent project description.

To pay for the project, at its Dec. 11 meeting the Rome Common Council unanimously approved an additional $3 million in bonds to be issued for the project. This, on top of the $12 million bond measure approved last summer.

The additional $3 million was to cover overages, as the original project estimates were slightly lower than what was needed, providing a bit of a cushion for the project, city officials said.

In addition, the project received $1 million in funding to be administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) via the 2019 Annual Regional Economic Development Council awards as well as a previously secured $3 million grant issued by the state’s Water Infrastructure Improvement Act.

Once the project is complete, the final amount left after grant funding is applied to the final project cost will be paid off by the bond issue over 40 years, Mayor Jacqueline Izzo has said.

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