The Altoona Water Authority has earned $107,500 by selling most of the "nutrient credits" it accumulated in the fiscal year that ended with September, based on the operations of its newly renovated Westerly Sewer Treatment Plant.
The authority sold credits for nitrogen and phosphorus to the Clearfield Municipal Authority, the Lackawanna River Basin Sewer Authority, Bedford Borough Water Authority and Karthaus Burnside Joint Sewer Authority, according to Altoona Water Authority consulting engineer Mark Glenn of Gwin Dobson & Foreman.
The authority generated the credits because the plan now discharges less nitrogen and phosphorus than the "load limits" imposed by new regulations designed to protect Chesapeake Bay from algae blooms that kill shellfish.
The selling of credits rewards organizations that do better than they need to while penalizing those that don't do enough, for now.
The recent sales actually generated twice as much money, but the authority needed to give half of it to PennVEST, because PennVEST provided half the funding for the Westerly renovation.
The authority had registered the credits with the state Department of Environmental Protection, which certified them.
The sales took place when officials of the other authorities - aware that Altoona had the credits - called General Manager Mark Perry and proposed a price, Glenn said.
Those officials might begin by stating offers from other credit-holding organizations, and asking whether the authority could do better, Glenn said.
The authority sold credits for a total of 57,000 pounds of nitrogen and 4,800 pounds of phosphorus.
"What the market will bear," Glenn said.
The authority did well by getting into the credit sales game "early," said solicitor Alan Krier.
The authority has credits for about 25,000 pounds of nitrogen left to sell from the 2011-2012 fiscal year.
"We're still trying to dispose of them," Glenn said.
The future for selling credits is uncertain.
The authority should have more than twice as many credits to sell after the next fiscal year, because Phase 1 of its Easterly plant will go on line at the end of this month.
It's only half the plant, but that half will begin handling all the effluent, thus producing better results than required, if the process works as it has at Westerly.
Moreover, tweaks and refinements at the Westerly plant should make its results even better than they've been, Glenn said.
However, the market is likely to grow sour, with supply increasing and demand decreasing.
Not only will more plants come on line, creating credits to sell for their authorities, but those plants will remove the necessity for those authorities to buy credits.
Still, there may be hope, as farmers and other producers of "non-point source" runoff pollution may seek to buy credits, according to Glenn.
Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.