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Amenia board urged to install wastewater treatment system

AMENIA — Understanding that the town’s ability to achieve meaningful growth will continue to be obstructed without a wastewater treatment system, the Amenia Wastewater Committee (AWC), with help from the engineering firm Tighe & Bond, outlined its research and reasoning for moving wanting a wastewater treatment system during the Amenia Town Board meeting on Thursday, Jan. 21.

The meeting was held via Zoom due to the coronavirus pandemic, welcoming AWC Chairman Jim Wright, Tighe & Bond Senior Project Manager Erin Moore and the entire Town Board in attendance.

“Leaders and citizens in Amenia have recognized for decades that the town will not thrive without a wastewater treatment system,” Wright said. “The 2007 Comprehensive Plan and the 2008 Hamlet Development Study both stated that without a wastewater treatment system that business and housing development would be very difficult to achieve.”

Wright said committee members have been educating themselves for months about wastewater treatment systems, speaking with neighboring towns and engineers as well as the Dutchess County Water and Wastewater Authority, and James A. Upright, a senior public health engineer from the Dutchess County Department of Behavioral & Community Health (DCDBCH).

Upright said “essential sewer systems in the hamlet… protect public health and enhance economic opportunities in the hamlet.” 

Upright added most of the town’s septic systems are old and substandard and can’t meet current standards. Additionally, commercial property is often limited from expanding because of the land it’s on. Constraints include: lots can be too small to accommodate septic systems; whole or partial lots located along Route 343 or Mechanic Street may be on New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) wetlands; groundwater may be too close to the surface and require a fill pad to obtain separation distance; and lots along or adjacent to Route 343 may be located in a 100-year flood plain, which would limit the placement of new septic systems.

From the former Monte’s Local Kitchen & Tap Room to Cumberland Farms, Wright cited examples of businesses that have been limited in their ability to operate and expand due to such constraints. According to Upright, said Wright, the DCDBCH firmly believes that “a municipal sewer system for the hamlet is and has been needed for some time and will support efforts to establish a system.”

Wright said he spoke to Darren Henault, owner of the new shop, Tent. Henault told Wright Amenia should take advantage of its superior location and exposure to thru traffic. Henault had urged friends looking to open a business in Millbrook to check out Amenia, but they reported that the septic systems at a number of available properties were too compromised to justify investing in renovating the spaces.

As an ideal example of how a community can be transformed by installing a septic system, Wright spoke of Hillsdale. He said that community built a system 10 years ago due to failures of individual septic tanks in town, and it’s been booming ever since with new businesses and heavy construction of single and multi-family housing units.

Focusing on Amenia, Wright said the last attempt to do a septic feasibility was in 2012; one of the engineers who worked on the study was Moore, which is why he is urging the board to hire her now. He said she’s familiar with the geography, topography and the unique challenges facing the town. He added Tighe & Bond has already submitted a proposal for updating the feasibility study.

Moore spoke of available grant funding to update the wastewater evaluation, which could then qualify the town for more grants. With a grant deadline coming up on Friday, Feb. 12, Wright told the board to hire her ASAP and consider funding the feasibility study submitted, even before knowing if it will get the grant. If the town accelerates the process, Wright said there could be significant infrastructure funding with the new federal administration and it would benefit the town tremendously to have a shovel-ready project.

Later that night, the board adopted authorized the application to the DEC/Environmental Facilities Corporation Wastewater Infrastructure Engineering Planning Grant and hired Tighe & Bond to assist the town with the application.

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