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Wastewater treatment project creates job, business opportunities for Catskill community

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Delhi, New York, is a quiet little village nestled deep in the rolling hills of the Catskill Mountains. It’s also home to a SUNY campus and the West Branch Delaware River. The river forms part of the New York City watershed and for that reason is subject to a range of restrictions that govern how the community can use the water and develop the village.

In response to the tough regulations, Delhi has come up with an innovative solution that respects the watershed restrictions but also enables business expansion and economic development. They’re calling it the Subsurface and Disposal and Irrigation Project, or just ‘The Project’ for short.

Rather than disposing of waste water from the village treatment plant into the Delaware River, a system would redirect water through an underground pipeline to an infiltration basin where SUNY Delhi can reuse it for irrigation and grounds care for their golf course.

SUNY Delhi Vice President of College Relations, Joel Smith describes the project as a potential boon to the community.

“This is an area where typically job growth comes in ones and twos. This is a huge opportunity for our region to help our manufacturers and continue to expand in an environmentally sensitive way.”

The Subsurface Disposal and Irrigation Project is the brain child of the Center of Excellence in Watershed Applications of Technology for Economic Revitalization or COE in WATER at the university. If put into place, the project would help position the university as a leader in sustainable education and research.

But funding for the plan is still coming together, Smith says the entire project, pipeline and infiltration basin construction and irrigation methods, is expected to cost two million dollars. So far the university has raised about half with the Cuomo administration providing $700,000 in support through the New York  State Environmental Facilities Corporation and New York State Home and Community Renewal program. The New York City Department of Environmental Protection is ready to match one million dollars in funding and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is requesting the Appalachian Regional Commission chip in another $300,000.

The reuse of village waste water would also enable the treatment facility to take on an additional 200,000 gallons of waste water from local companies, enabling those businesses to add new jobs to the economy.

Two businesses set to benefit from the project and expand their operations are FriesLand Campina (a biotechnology firm) and Saputo Dairy Foods both on the outskirts of town. FriesLand Campina says they’re planning a 40-million dollar expansion that would double their production and increase jobs while Saputo says they’ll add another processor to their plant.

Liz Van Buren, Plant Manager at Saputo Dairy Foods says they’re aiming to add between 20 and 25 jobs to their team of 140 employees. But for her the water project is significant because it is environmentally sensitive.

“Everybody that works at the plant lives here, so we don’t want to do anything that’s wrong and we try really hard to always do the right thing and keep people living here. We want our children and our grandchildren to live here.”

Kirsten Gillibrand says the Subsurface Disposal and Irrigation Project is an outstanding example of how infrastructure investment can make a difference environmentally and economically.

“For these companies to grow and expand we have to be able to build the infrastructure that’s needed to support their efforts. In this case we can do it by building the infrastructure that will allow water to be diverted from the village facility to the college’s irrigation system. This cooperative solution is especially important for communities in areas like Delaware County that face the land use restrictions that can restrict basic business expansion.”

New York City’s Deputy Commissioner for the Bureau of Water Supply, Paul Rush says it’s critical for New York to partner and support the communities it gets its water from.

“New York City has filtration avoidance and has a living watershed and promoting technologies and center of learning within the watershed itself is a way to make the watershed a sustainable place for people to live, for businesses to thrive and also develop talent within the watershed in the centers for learning can also be better stewards of the water and possible help New York City and New York State protect this valuable resource.”

In addition to money being donated, the federal Department of Energy and Housing and Urban Development contributed in kind by designing the irrigation system.

If all the necessary funds are raised, officials say they expect the construction on the Subsurface Disposal and Irrigation Project to begin in the spring of 2014.

You can view the latest episode of New York Now here, and the report on the Subsurface and Disposal and Irrigation Project starts a little after two minutes in.

WMHT/Capital Region Reporter for the Innovation Trail
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