Selling of nutrient credits to yield $300,000 for Water Authority

The Altoona Water Authority recently gave permission for the sale of “credits” representing 200,000 pounds of pollutants that the authority’s newly renovated treatment plants didn’t discharge into area streams.

The price: $1.50 a pound, or $300,000 – although half the money would go to Pennvest, which provided much of the approximately $70 million the authority paid for the renovations, which were mandated to protect Chesapeake Bay.

The credits represent how far beyond the minimum requirements the plants will have performed during fiscal 2014.

“Does that mean the treatment plants are running good?” authority member Tony Ruggery asked.

Yes, but “I wouldn’t expect anything less,” replied authority in-house engineer, Mike Sinisi.

The Westerly plant went on line with its new system in September 2011, and the Easterly plant went on line with its new system in December 2012.

Of the avoided pollution, 180,000 pounds are nitrogen, while 20,000 pounds are phosphorus.

The pre-renovation process at the plants removed food-like materials, but not nitrogen and phosphorus, which promote oxygen-robbing algae in the bay.

Sewer authorities operating plants that don’t meet the new bay standards can meet them virtually by buying credits from authorities that do better than the minimum – paying, one could argue, the equivalent of fines that creates an incentive to come into compliance.

Clearfield Municipal Authority, which has bought credits from the authority the past two years, is a potential buyer for the newly available credits, according to AWA General Manager Mark Perry.

The effluent standards for the Altoona plants are based on a concentration of approximately 5 milligrams per liter of effluent for nitrogen and 0.6 milligrams per liter for phosphorus, one of the authority’s consultant engineers said previously.