It may be hundreds of miles away from the Bay, but a second New York wastewater treatment plant is planning to curb nitrogen discharges to help the Chesapeake.
The EPA is giving the town of Owego — located 15 miles upstream from the Pennsylvania state line and nearly 400 miles from the Bay — $323,000 so improvements to its wastewater treatment plant on the Susquehanna River can include nitrogen-removing technology.
U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-NY, who helped secure the funds in this year’s federal budget, said the project would result in benefits “felt from New York to the Chesapeake Bay … This funding will result in improved public and environmental health in hundreds of communities.”
Excess nitrogen usually isn’t a major problem for fresh water, but it is the most important nutrient when it comes to algae production in the saltier Chesapeake Bay.
New York — like West Virginia and Delaware — was never asked to sign Bay agreements to restore the Chesapeake, and therefore was never committed to make nutrient reductions to benefit the Bay.
Eventually, though, wastewater treatment plants far upstream could be required to reduce nitrogen to help the Bay, and Hinchey said curbing nitrogen now will pay off both for the town — and the Bay.
“By taking action now to upgrade our sewage treatment facilities — while there’s federal funding available to do the work — we’re preventing a real burden on communities down the road,” he said.
Last year, Hinchey helped to secure a $4.35 million grant to install nitrogen-control technology at New York’s Binghamtom-Johnson City Joint Sewage Treatment Plant on the Susquehanna, the second largest sewage plant on the river after Harrisburg.
This year, Hinchey, co-chairman of the Susquehanna River Basin Task Force in Congress, helped to secure another $950,000 for nitrogen-reduction improvements at the plants on the river. Besides Owego, the funds are expected to go toward four projects in Pennsylvania.
When the projects from both years’ grants are completed, they will reduce nitrogen discharges by about 1.2 million pounds a year.
The Susquehanna task force is seeking another $5 million from Congress for the program next year.