New Athens considering sewage rate hike-up to combat wastewater plant’s sludge issues

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Photo provided by Kevin Chaffee of Earthtek Environmental LLC. Earthtek Environmental is the company responsible for the New Athens wastewater treatment plant. The plant in News Athens is Earthtek's Sabre 67,695 gpd SBR model.

New Athens met Monday night for their regular monthly meeting. And as the council expounded on some of the issues with the plant’s day-to-day, council member Mark Arnold mentioned that the wastewater plant is being checked daily and cleaned frequently. Not only is that not supposed to be the case, but it’s coming at another cost: some projects are falling to the wayside — and coupled with more rainfall in the summer, the other jobs can compound quickly. When workers visit the wastewater plant every day, it takes time from other ventures, and those ventures get stuck in the backlog, especially if the plant needs cleaning. Council member Mark Arnold mentioned that too: “When they got to babysit the plant, nothing’s getting done — and that’s the problem.” If the meeting were any indication, the wastewater facility’s sludge dilemma is at the epicenter, and it’s causing supplemental obstacles.

Arnold continued that maybe it would be worth installing a grinder pump. The grinder pump could address another rising problem at the plant and was the primary bullet point, but its secondary matter became the next bigger talking point. Council members were emphatic that New Athens residents discontinue current flushing habits. Reports from the council indicated that much of the plant’s blockages had been exacerbated by larger waste that shouldn’t have been in the system: toilet paper rolls, cigarette butts, baby wipes, plastic, and tampons. The sludge in the system is one matter, but public utilities supervisor Matt Litman Jr. is cleaning out the flotsam, too. The floating trash adds extra strain on an already sensitive sewage issue. And that’s also why the grinder pump had been mentioned.

Moreover, mayor Joe Petro stated that he had recently cut a check for $2,400 for two trips to haul away sludge. And that was just in August. The trucks move the sludge to a site in Canton for processing; the waste reportedly can’t be taken to any given location. And that makes the process more expensive. So it was agreed all around that the payments couldn’t continue. That’s what conceptualized the sewage rate increase idea. No motions were passed on any extra charges to sewer bills, but the conversation seemed to prime everyone for it as an option. So while nothing concrete was set into motion, a rate increase could become a reality — especially if thousands of dollars continue to get spent on sludge hauling. 

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