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City of Watertown awarded $585,000 state grant for wastewater treatment plant project

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The North Country Regional Economic Development Council on Wednesday announced the city of Watertown has been awarded a $585,000 grant to help fund a $2.5 million capital improvement project at its wastewater treatment plant to comply with requirements from the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The project, which will receive the grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, includes a range of improvements at the plant, 700 William T. Field Drive. The project will make sewage disposal processes more efficient, reduce consumption of fossil fuels, increase biogas produced by the plant’s anaerobic digesters and reduce the volume of solid waste taken to the regional landfill. The modifications are projected to save the city more than $250,000 annually through a combination of electricity savings and reduction in fuel oil consumption. The project will eliminate the need for the city to purchase more than 28,000 gallons of fuel oil per year.

Anthony G. Collins, the council’s co-chairman, lauded the city’s project for creating jobs and making the plant sustainable for the future.

“Projects like this recognize that we need to invest in clean-energy sources as well as address an aging infrastructure to support additional development,” he said in a statement. “I commend the City of Watertown for its commitment to environmental awareness and fiscal responsibility that benefits the entire community and drives new job growth.”

Upon design completion, plant modifications will include replacing the existing sewage sludge incinerator with enhanced anaerobic digestion. The process also will eliminate the need for auxiliary fuel at the incinerator and the hauling of incinerator ash residue to the landfill.

Anaerobic digestion is a clean-energy process that produces biogas, which can be used to generate electricity or other sources of power. Organic waste is placed in a sealed container and broken down by bacteria into a biogas composed predominantly of methane, the primary constituent of natural gas.

Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham said the funding awarded by the state played a critical role needed to set the project in motion. The funding comes at a time when the city, like other municipalities, has been challenged to pass a balanced budget.

“But for the assistance provided, our project simply would not have moved forward,” Mr. Graham said in a statement. “When ultimately completed, the project will significantly reduce Watertown’s wastewater treatment plant’s carbon footprint by eliminating incinerator air emissions and fuel oil consumption, enhancing digester natural gas production nearly tenfold, and reducing total electrical demand of the wastewater facility on the regional grid by approximately 25 percent.”

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