The Altoona Water Authority is spending about $70 million to upgrade its two sewer treatment plants to comply with pollution limits to protect Chesapeake Bay, and that outlay might help the authority get a little money back.
The authority has gone well beyond the minimum standards for the first plant, which means that it should be able eventually to sell nutrient tax credits - probably from both plants - to entities that can't meet the standards.
The Westerly Sewer Treatment Plant has been discharging 100,000 fewer pounds per year than the 160,000 pound load limit for the plant, authority consulting engineer Mark Glenn of Gwin Dobson & Foreman said.
The plant is also sending out 20,000 pounds less phosphorus than the 40,000 load limit.
It's hard to predict income amounts because prices fluctuate, said Glenn and solicitor Alan Krier.
But at $3.23 a pound - the actual price paid in one 2012 purchase listed on a state Department of Environmental Protection website - the excess nitrogen would generate $323,000.
The authority would get half, as it must split the proceeds with Pennvest, which provided major funding for both renovations.
At $2.25 a pound - the actual price paid in a 2012 purchase listed on the same website - the excess phosphorus would generate $45,000, which the authority would split with Pennvest.
The authority hasn't yet begun operating the Easterly plant under the new system, although by the end of the month it had hoped to begin operations for the first phase, or half the plant capacity.
Officials are hoping for results similar to those at Westerly.
The trading of nutrients provides a reward to facilities that do better than necessary, while imposing a penalty - and incentive to do better - for those who don't do well enough.
The good and the bad offset, to keep pollution at acceptable levels.
The authority has been trying to line up prospective buyers, member Patrick Dumm said. It has registered credits with the state, Glenn said.