Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

June 23, 2013

SIBOLSKI: A few words on water treatment

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Let me introduce myself, my name is Doug Sibolski and I am the superintendent / chief operator of the City of Lockport Waste Water Treatment Plant and Compost Facility. In the past few years there has been much public conversation and concern as to the water quality and safety of our local waterways.

This is a very important conversation that should be had, and welcomed; by all the people in this community but that is also a very complex, convoluted subject that should only be discussed in terms of pure facts. I am hoping to present a series of columns that will educate the readers as to what we actually do at the wastewater plant.

My position and job duties as a public servant are wide and encompassing and touch on many aspects of public safety, acountability and communication. As formally educated and licensed operators, laboratory technicians and environmentalist we do a large part in protecting the receiving stream (Eighteenmile Creek) but by no means are we the only caretakers; we all are.

Our job at the treatment plant is to receive all the sewage flow from the City of Lockport and parts of the Town of Lockport and to clean it to high standards that are set forth to us in parameters and permit limits issued by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, New York State Health Department and the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

The City of Lockport has two main waterways that flow through its boundaries; the Erie Canal and the Eighteenmile Creek and its tributaries. The DEC has rated all the surface waters in the state according to the condition of their waters and to what use the public can safely enjoy them. The rating system for the best waterways is an “A” and for the worst a “D.”

The Eighteenmile Creek has a “D” rating within the City of Lockport and north to the Town of Newfane at Ide Road at which point the rating changes to a “C” to Lake Ontario (Lake Ontario is rated an “A”). The “D” rating is attributed to years of industrial use of chemicals and toxic compounds that were released into the creek and are found today in the sediment within and along its banks. The Erie Canal is rated as a “C” waterway.

Let’s concentrate and focus on the receiving stream for the city’s wastewater treatment plant; Eighteenmile Creek. By no means is the “D” rating attributed to the creek a direct result or impact of the City of Lockport Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The “D” rating is from a 150+ year history of industry and misuse before the 1972 Clean Water Act was passed by congress to address years and years of abuse to our natural waterways. The treatment plant and a majority of the money to build it — what you see today at 611 West Jackson Street — is a direct result of the Clean Water Act.

The treatment plant’s permit parameters are issued by the DEC with the classification rating of the receiving stream kept in mind. In general, this means the higher the rating for the stream the more stringent the parameters. With higher technologies and processes in cleaning, the higher the costs. The higher the costs, the higher the water/sewer bill to users.

We could spend an obscene amount of money to purify our wastewater to an “A” rating, but the need is not required as per the current stream rating of “D.” This would be a big waste of public money. However, the wastewater treatment plant meets all permit requirements and is many times higher than the current water quality standards.

The City of Lockport’s sewer system is called a combined sewer system. That means not only sanitary sewer (household, industry) flows into the system but street storm drains (rainwater, groundwater) also enters the system and are transported to the treatment plant. During a normal non-event (rain) day the flow to the plant averages 7-10 millions gallon per day. During a rain storm the flows at the plant can reach as high as 75+ million gallons per day. This adds to the challenge of treatment but is one that is met on a daily basis. In the series to follow I will write about the collection system and an outline of how our wastewater treatment cleans the water.

Doug Sibolski is superintendent and chief operator of the City of Lockport Waste Water Treatment Plant. His column will appear on the fourth Sunday of every month.

Doug Sibolski is superintendent and chief operator of the City of Lockport Waste Water Treatment Plant. His column will appear on the fourth Sunday of every month.