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November 22, 2021 - 4:39pm

O-At-Ka Milk Products CEO encouraged by progress of its pretreatment facility

The new pretreatment plan at O-At-Ka Milk Products, Inc., is operational -- and that is good news for the Upstate Niagara Cooperative-owned facility at 700 Ellicott St.

However, according to Chief Executive Officer William Schreiber, the company’s inability to increase the amount of wastewater it sends into the City of Batavia’s Waste Water Treatment Plant has not changed – and that is not so good news as talks with city officials in that particular area have stalled.

“Once the city decided not to accept our offer to help accelerate oxygenation of the (WWTP) lagoons, we directed all our resources to the successful commissioning of the new pretreatment plant,” Schreiber said today by email in response to questions from The Batavian.

“We have not been in touch with the city regarding any additional loading for the past two weeks; hence, we assume their position hasn’t changed.”

An email sent around 1 this afternoon to City Attorney George Van Nest seeking an update on the WWTP’s recovery to permitted Dissolved Oxygen levels has yet to be returned.

Because the city has restricted O-At-Ka’s discharge over the past few months, the company has been forced to transport wastewater from its property to other locations.

“Hauling of wastewater has continued to be reduced on a daily basis throughout the commissioning of the new plant,” Schreiber said, pointing out that it has cost O-At-Ka more than $1 million in trucking related charges.

Meanwhile, workers have continued to upgrade the milk processing plant’s pretreatment capabilities.

“We began commissioning (the new plant) one week ahead of schedule,” Schreiber said. “Since then, we have been steadily increasing both the flow and organic loading to the new plant.  As of the end of last week, things are progressing according to plan.”

The CEO said O-At-Ka is incrementally increasing flow to the new pretreatment plant and decreasing flow to the older plant, which are located off Cedar Street.

“We are presently operating at approximately 50 percent capacity from design flow and 35 percent capacity of design loading.  In both cases this has doubled in the past seven days,” he added.

Schreiber said he is encouraged by the “numbers,” explaining that “the biology is starting to attach to the media and growth is proceeding consistent with expectations.”

He said a new equalization tank will be incorporated as the main flow tank by the end of the month and assembly of the new Dissolved Air Flotation has been completed on site along with the installation of the polymer addition line.

The DAF, not part of the original design, helps facilitate a process that removes solids before the wastewater enters the Moving Bed Biofilm Reactor and reduces the load.

The situation regarding O-At-Ka’s wastewater pollutant levels into the city’s lagoons came to light in mid-October when John Gould, Upstate Niagara chairman, addressed city council.

At that time, Van Nest said the city had no choice but to issue a “cease and desist” letter to O-At-Ka after discovering exceedingly high levels of contaminants in wastewater discharged by the facility.  More recently, the city attorney reported that the lagoons are returning to normal levels, but still has a ways to go.

Previously: City sends 'cease and desist' letter to O-At-Ka Milk as issues at waste water treatment plant continue

Previously: Meeting with engineers working with city give O-At-Ka CEO optimism that wastewater issue can be solved

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