AVON – The Village and Heinz-Kraft are talking phosphorus these days, looking for ways to bring spikes in the chemical at the local wastewater treatment plant under the required limits recently set by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
At Monday night’s Village Board meeting, Bill Davis with MRB Engineering Group explained that they are closely surveying levels of phosphorus, a non-toxic but potentially environmentally harmful chemical, being pumped into the Village’s wastewater treatment plant, and that it seems that the problem lies not in the volume of phosphorus that is moving but that it all seems to come in one huge wave.
“The regulations from the DEC are very new, and there is a learning curve for both us and Heinz-Kraft,” said Mayor Thomas Freeman. “Our problem seems to be that many Kraft pumps come on at once. We can handle a steady 8 ppm, just not a sudden 20 ppm for a 12-hour period. We can’t suddenly adjust for that with the chemical we use to settle it out.”
Freeman added that Heinz-Kraft has been highly cooperative and continues to meet the Village to discuss possible changes to their activity that could help bring phosphorus levels under control.
“Kraft is our most major water user and our biggest ally in wastewater treatment,” said Freeman. “I’ve always said that Kraft is a good neighbor, and that wouldn’t be who we are without Kraft. They have been greatly helpful in this process and are learning right along with us.”
Freeman added that the DEC has recognized that Avon’s wastewater treatment facility is currently undergoing a $3 million upgrade, including a storage building for the chemical they use to control phosphorus. For the time being, Superintendent of Public Works John Barrett is overseeing the use of 55-gallon drums of the regulating chemical at the facility.
There are no public health concerns associated with the increased phosphorus levels. The new phosphorus regulations from DEC stem from growing concerns over algae in natural waterways. Phosphorus is commonly used as a fertilizer in lawns and an ingredient in industrial floor cleaning and polishing products, but also fertilizes algae once it passes into natural bodies of water, like Conesus Lake.
In recent years, Conesus Lake has been host to blooms of toxic blue-green algae.
“We are all for quality of water,” said Mayor Freeman. “Sometimes it takes time to change old treatment habits and integrate new technology, but we’ll get there. Avon wants to be a good steward of the Genesee River.”
The new regulations require that phosphorus levels be kept low from May to October.