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Chemung County awarded nearly $200 million in federal aid to upgrade, combine 2 wastewater treatment plants

Chemung County will receive nearly $200 million in federal money to combine its two wastewater treatment plants.

In March, the county was awarded hundreds of millions of dollars in grants and low- to no-interest loans from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and New York’s Water Infrastructure Improvement Act (WIIA) grant program.

The BIL is providing over $75 million in short-term interest-free financing, $75 million in short-term market-rate financing, $22 million in long-term interest-free financing and a $25 million grant.

The $25 million WIIA grant is for planning, design and construction of the two wastewater treatment plants. Those facilities will be consolidated into one. The Lake Street facility is over 60 years old and not meeting effluent discharge standards. Effluent is sewage that’s been treated at a wastewater facility and flows into our waterways such as the Chemung River and Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

The goal is to combine all county wastewater for treatment at the Milton Street plant.

The project is now in its third year. Arcadis, the contractor, expects completion of the upgrades by 2026, according to a press release.

The county said that the low- to no-interest loans will be paid back by sewer users.

Chemung County recently proposed increases to its sewer rate structure. The increases include a $1.45 increase for the “Basic User Charge” and a $23.20 increase for annual metered water customers billed by the Elmira Water Board. There will also be a $116.29 increase for annual well-water—or un-metered residential water consumption.

The increases apply to both households and businesses alike. If approved, the increases will be retroactive to Jan. 1 2024.

It is unclear how the county will bill sewer users for any increases dating back to January or how long the increased charges will be in effect for county sewer users in order to pay back the loan portions of the money.

The Chemung County executive, deputy county executive and sewer district executive director did not respond to requests for comment in time for this report.

The county’s sewer district serves over 60,000 people.