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Amenia should tune in for Wastewater update

Guest Commentary

Amenia residents: Don’t miss next week’s Town Board meeting on Thursday, Jan. 21, at 7 p.m. for an Information Session presented by the town’s  Wastewater Committee. To understand why it’s so vital, please continue reading.

For more than four decades Amenia has explored getting a sewage treatment system built in the town. The studies have focussed on installing a system in the business district with varying degrees of inclusion of nearby residential neighborhoods, especially those with failing and substandard septic tanks. The 2007 Comprehensive Plan and the 2008 Hamlet Development Plan both stated that without a wastewater treatment system, business development would be very difficult to achieve.

Senior Public Health Engineer with the Dutchess County Department of Behavioral and Community Health James A. Upright, P.E., P.G., is familiar with Amenia’s history and recently offered these observations:

“This department supports the design and construction of a central sewer system for the hamlet to protect public health and to enhance economic opportunities in the hamlet.  Based on the projects I have reviewed for the hamlet of Amenia, most septic systems in the hamlet are old and substandard and there is no way for most of them to meet current standards. The parcels in the hamlet are limited in what businesses can do to open and/or expand due to a combination of some or all of the following constraints.

“Most of the lots are too small to accommodate approved septic systems — especially for restaurants. The library barely had space for a new septic for their new expansion. 

“Most of the lots along Route 343 (East Main Street) and Mechanic Street abut or are located wholly or partially in a NYSDEC wetland, which further limits possible septic locations. Additionally, the groundwater at these lots is close to the surface, which requires a fill pad to obtain separation distance. Monte’s had to install an expensive fill pad [large quantities of special soil trucked in and carefully placed by an excavator] surrounded by a retaining wall to obtain our approval — losing valuable parking spaces.

“The lots in item two and many adjacent lots are located in a 100 year flood plain, which again limits placement of new systems. Cumberland Farms, at the intersection of East Main and Mechanic Street, has a septic system that has been failing for over two years. However, due to the flood plain [and shallow groundwater] there is no acceptable location for a new septic.  

“Most of these parcels surround a lake and wetland that are part of the watershed for two of the hamlet’s four water supply wells. Several years ago the hamlet had to abandon two additional wells in this area due to groundwater contamination from nearby septic systems.  

“This department 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.”

On Thursday, Jan. 21, the Wastewater Committee will present details of how a treatment system could benefit our town. Please note: This will be an opportunity for the Committee to share information with both the Amenia Town Board and the public. The Board has not decided on whether or not to move forward with a sewer system.

The Committee will share the proposal for a feasibility study submitted by Erin Moore, an engineer with Tighe & Bond. Having worked on that study she knows Amenia well and will update the 2012 report based on community input and the latest wastewater treatment technology. Erin will participate in the Jan. 21 presentation, and will describe the successful approach neighboring communities are taking to provide affordable wastewater treatment. 

With her passion for finding and implementing solutions to community wastewater challenges, Erin will present an outline of the process, time line and approach to developing wastewater service in the Town of Amenia.

Please mark your calendars and watch the meeting starting at 7 p.m. on Jan. 21, on Channel 22 or at www.youtube.com/ameniatv/live. Thanks!


Jim Wright is chairman of the Amenia Wastewater Committee and has been a resident of Amenia since 1984.

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