Highland Town Supervisor Paul Hansut and Senior Operator Adam Litman at the Wastewater Treatment Plant on River Road. Photo by Lauren Thomas

While it’s not a sexy topic, municipal water and sewer — the dispensing and treatment of — is one of the more critical aspects that local governments have to contend with and stay on top of, less their sludge runneth over.

To that end, the Town of Lloyd, almost eight years ago under then-supervisor Bob Sheppard, decided to go out to bond for approximately $7 million to conduct a complete overhaul and expansion of its sewage treatment plant that had well-exceeded its lifespan. The plant had been built in 1978, and according to Adam Litman, the chief operator of the Wastewater Treatment Plant, “Ninety percent of our equipment had far exceeded its life expectancy.”

Although the decision was made to post a bond, the work did not begin until 2011, after Morris Associates had completed all of the engineering and specification work necessary and a bid package was awarded to Kingsley Arms, based in Troy.

While Litman gave a tour of the plant — located near the base of River Road — to the New Paltz Times along with supervisor Paul Hansut, he explained that prior to Tropical Storms Irene and Lee back in August and September of 2011, the sewage treatment plant was “in the midst of a complete overhaul.”

“We were about 50 to 60 percent of the way into the upgrade,” he said, explaining that the masonry and concrete work had been completed, a new grit building extension constructed and two out of four new tanks put on line the day before the storm hit. “Everyone had worked like crazy to get those two new tanks on line so that we’d be able to absorb the predicted rainfall and stormwater run-off.” Litman acknowledged that at the time, they had no idea just how catastrophic the storm would be to the plant (as well as many other things).

When they arrived on the Sunday after the storm, the bridge over the Twaalfskill (which runs next to the plant) was completely washed out, the new grit building extension destroyed, “the two new tanks filled almost three-quarters of the way with boulders, trees, debris…this entire place was up to my chest in water, rocks, limbs…you name it. This plant was wiped out, buried, filled in. It was a complete and total disaster,” he said.

“The storm basically put us back to zero, after all of that work had been completed,” said Hansut, who gave a call to former Town supervisor Ray Costantino to ask exactly how much the storm damage had cost. “Ray said, conservatively, about $2.5 million,” said Hansut. “And that bond was old, so the cost of steel, concrete, equipment continued to go up every year, and we’re now looking at a $10-to-11-million project.”

The 20-year bond was planned for, but the cost of the storm damage and having to redo more than half of the already-completed upgrade was not. “We finally received a settlement of approximately $270,000 from our insurance company,” said Hansut, which was the final piece that the Town needed before it could apply to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), hopefully to get reimbursed for the rest of the storm-related damage.

That said, Litman had nothing but high praise for Kingsley Arms, which he said showed up “that following Monday, guns blazing, ready to clear this place out and get it up and running.” Litman said that he tried to caution the contractors that “We don’t know how much insurance will pay for this, or FEMA…but they didn’t care about being paid. They wanted to make sure the plant was processing the sewage as cleanly as it could despite the catastrophe, and they also went to help the neighbors who were flooded out.”

According to Hansut and Litman, the Wastewater Treatment Plant, which has approximately 1,600 users, is now “98 percent back to where it was and where we were headed.”

In an effort to prevent such a disaster in the future, as extreme weather events become more and more common, the Town of Lloyd has accepted a grant from the US Department of Agriculture to begin restabilizing the Twaalfskill riverbank along River Road (see story on page 7). ++