The Village of Honeoye Falls will use a $30,000 state grant to study the future of its waste water treatment plant.
Officials expect that the plant's treated water will eventually be subject to new limits on the amounts of phosphorous and copper it can contain, says village administrator Greg Emerson.
Village leaders say that they want to know whether the plant would need new treatment systems to meet those standards, and what it might cost. They also plan to examine whether it might be more cost-effective to hook into the countywide Pure Waters sewer system, instead.
"We would like to be prepared financially and operationally if and when those limits come around," Emerson says.
The Honeoye Falls plant figures into a broader discussion about phosphorous pollution in Lake Ontario. Phosphorous, a nutrient, encourages algae growth and has a role in other near-shore water-quality problems. Local, state, and federal environmental and health officials have been attacking the problem for a few decades now.
The Genesee River has a major role, since it carries a lot of phosphorous into the lake. The Genesee and its tributaries pick up the contaminant from several sources within the river's watershed; agricultural operations being the most significant. But researchers say that municipal waste water treatment plants also contribute to the phosphorous in the river.
And it's simpler, they say, to eliminate phosphorous from the treatment plants than from farm fields and feed lots. Historically, the state hasn't limited phosphorous levels in the plants' water discharges as it renews the plants' permits, but it's starting to. The Village of Bergen's treatment plant discharges into the Genesee River watershed, and this summer the state drew up a renewed permit for the plant that includes phosphorous limits.
The Honeoye Falls plant discharges its treated water into Honeoye Creek, a Genesee River tributary. If the plant can reduce or eliminate its phosphorous contribution, that's another bite out of the nutrient pollution problem.
But there is the question of whether Honeoye Falls should have to foot the entire bill to upgrade its plant. After all, the investment would have benefits well beyond the village's border.
Village Mayor Rick Milne says that the state has provided funding in similar circumstances. The village was recently awarded more than $400,000 to upgrade disinfection equipment at the plant, he says —work meant to help the plant comply with a different regulatory change.
The village will work with the state on any new requirements, he says.