Plans for the immediate future of East Hampton Town’s septic waste treatment plant, developed by consulting engineers and discussed by the town board in executive session, were outlined at a public board meeting on Tuesday.
The board plans to privatize the facility. It will request proposals to run the plant, which accepts and processes waste from the carters who pump out cesspools and restaurant grease traps. The plant must first, however, be brought into compliance with state environmental regulations.
The town and Severn Trent, a private contractor paid almost $80,000 a month to run the plant, were cited last spring by the state Department of Environmental Conservation for violations of environmental limits, in what the D.E.C. called an “ongoing problem.” Between February 2008 and March of this year, according to the agency, discharge from the plant contained excessive levels of nitrogen, mercury, iron, and other elements.
The state has ordered the town to submit a corrective action plan. An August deadline has been extended to next month. State law provides for a maximum penalty of $37,500 for each violation, which can be compounded daily, but town officials hope that a plan that meets with the D.E.C.’s approval will result in a minimal amount of fines.
In order to assess and resolve the problems at the plant, it must be shut down, Councilwoman Theresa Quigley said at Tuesday’s meeting. Waste will not be treated at the site, she said, but it would continue to be operated as a transfer station, allowing local pump-out companies to empty their trucks of waste that would be trucked to other facilities for processing.
The town will seek a private company to temporarily operate the transfer station while the plant cleanup is under way. At a meeting tonight, the board is expected to issue a request for proposals for that service.
Taking waste directly to UpIsland facilities is generally more costly for East Hampton-based septic waste carters. However, Councilman Dominick Stanzione pointed out during the Tuesday discussion that the cost per gallon to dump waste at the plant, currently 11.5 cents, is likely to be increased by whoever operates the transfer station.
Because of the plan to privatize the waste treatment facility, the board had agreed to terminate a contract with Severn Trent, the plant operator, which expires at the end of the month. However, the company will have to be hired on a month-to-month basis for at least another month, Ms. Quigley said, while the plant is revamped and the D.E.C. issues resolved. Then the town can seek proposals from private companies to take it over and resume wastewater treatment on site.
The 2012 town budget, to be voted on at the board meeting tonight, contains money for debt payments on the plant but does not contain funds to pay Severn Trent, or to repair or operate the plant.
Town officials had sought to keep the D.E.C. citations at the plant quiet, insisting a segment of a report prepared by the town budget and finance advisory committee, which touched on the environmental concerns, be presented in private, and holding all pertinent discussions in executive session. Correspondence from the D.E.C. about the citations was released only pursuant to a Freedom of Information law request by Deborah Klughers, a Springs environmentalist.
Ms. Klughers was an apparent winner last week of a seat on the board of trustees, though absentee ballots could change the outcome.