Water authority plans soil cleanup from tank

Removal will cost $25,000; treatment of muddy water brought in $400K

The Altoona Water Authority will rent a large excavator to remove now-dried soil from a tank at the Westerly Sewer Treatment Plant that held “mud puddle water” brought in by pipeline companies after boring operations under rivers and roads during the last two years.

The rental will cost $25,000 — money that was not in the maintenance budget for the plant, Director of Wastewater Operations Todd Musser told the board Thursday.

Musser sounded rueful at first, but that evaporated as he explained that the authority realized $400,000 in revenue for treating that muddy water and providing relief for drilling companies that were “struggling” to comply with the Department of Environmental Protection’s disposal rules.

“He felt bad” about the unbudgeted expense, staff engineer Michael Sinisi said about Musser, after the meeting. “But the (cost) is small, compared to what he brought in.”

“We’re to the good,” Musser said. “We can afford it.”

The authority will use its own employees to scoop out the soil, which settled to the bottom of the tank as water was repeatedly added and drawn off over the months.

The workers also will use a skid loader owned by the authority, Musser said.

The workers will deposit the dirt on a “fill pile” where the authority routinely places soil from digging in the city’s streets, Musser said.

Musser chose the excavator option with in-house workers after learning that a company that could vacuum out the dirt would have charged $50,000.

Digester work

Work continues at Westerly on an investment-grade audit to determine the feasibility of installing an anaerobic digester to handle imported high-strength organic waste, producing gas that would dry the plant’s sludge to produce harmless mulch, generate electricity to operate the plant and perhaps even create enough excess gas and electricity to sell to their respective markets.

Energy Systems Group, which has undertaken the project under an energy-conservation initiative of the Pennsylvania Sustainable Energy Fund, expects the authority could apply to Penn­vest for funding in the spring and begin construction in August.

If the project occurs, ESG would guarantee it would at least pay for itself via savings and revenue.