Unknown Chemical Disrupts Sewage Treatment Plant

Courtesy of City of Ithaca
December 3, 2013

Workers at Ithaca’s wastewater treatment plant had an unwelcome Thanksgiving surprise this year: an unknown chemical released into the system.  Matt Martin reports that the plant’s ability to treat sewage was disrupted for three days.

Officials in Ithaca are working on a mystery.

Dan Ramer, Chief Operator at the treatment plan, says it’s not clear if the dump was intentional or not.  And because no man can stop the flow of sewage, it’s difficult to investigate. 

“So it’s really hard for us to, after the bell has rung to un-ring the bell and figure out who operated it.”

He went on to say that this wasn’t somebody just pouring a bottle down the drain. It’s still unclear who did it or how. 

“I mean this had to be a pretty significant quantity of something.”

The chemical killed the microbes that treat the dirty water.  Ramer says that is a problem because the plant can never close.  Meaning water passing through the plant at that time wasn’t properly cleaned.

“The reality of it is we have to stay running.  We did.  We try to treat to the best of our ability but it clearly was a substandard couple of days there.”

But Ramer says not to worry. 

“99.99% of the time we more then meet permitted limits that a couple days of us not meeting it is not an ecological problem.”

The plant releases the treated water into Cayuga Lake.  Ramer says that the three days of untreated water will be so diluted that it will cause no damage.