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Batavia Wastewater Treatment Plant

April 13, 2021 - 5:00pm

With a key component of the City of Batavia’s wastewater treatment plant operating at just 20-percent capacity, Maintenance Superintendent Ray Tourt says that it’s imperative to move up the capital project plan timetable to get it fixed.

“We desperately need to get that air back into the pond,” said Tourt at Monday night’s City Council meeting, talking about a faulty air header system at the plant. “We recognize how severe it is becoming.”

Tourt said the city has received about 10 years less than the expected 40-year life of the system, which introduces supplemental air to the three primary wastewater ponds.

In a memo to City Manager Rachael Tabelski dated March 29, Tourt wrote that “this air provides oxygen to the ponds to effectively digest waste.”

“Even though this project is scheduled for (this fiscal year), it was discovered that the system’s rate of decline is higher than originally anticipated,” he wrote. “For this reason, the project is being advanced as quickly as it can be.”

City Council acted favorably to his request, forwarding a resolution to contract with the lowest bidder to its April 26 Business Meeting. Opening of the bids is scheduled for April 19.

Tourt said work will be done in sections, starting with the large 16-inch line and working down to the six-inch line. He noted that the lines will be wrapped to prevent deterioration from the elements.

He said the system is leaking a “significant amount of air” and is creating a distinct odor near and around the ponds. Once that segment of an overall $1 million wastewater treatment plant project is finished – hopefully be the end of summer, he said crews will evaluate the plant’s compressors and diffusers.

In other action related to infrastructure, Council forwarded a resolution to apply for a Northern Border Regional Commission grant in the amount of $328,000 to partially fund a waterline project on Bank Street. The total cost of the project is approximately $410,000 but the city would be responsible for a local match of 20 percent ($82,000).

Tabelski, in a memo to Council dated April 6, wrote that work is needed “to improve water pressure and fire suppression capabilities on Bank Street, as well as enable future development on the City Centre campus and the Alva Place location for the (new) police station.”

She wrote that the Bank Street waterline will be expanded from its current four- and six-inch lines to an eight-inch line.

September 21, 2016 - 1:35pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Wastewater Treatment Plant, batavia, news.


It's taken 26 years for sludge to build up to about a three-foot depth in one of the processing ponds at the Batavia Wastewater Treatment Plant, but that buildup has reduced the pond's capacity by about 50 percent, so it's time to have it removed.

A removal project is now underway that costs about $1.3 million and is being conducted by contractors who specialize in sludge removal.

The process involves pumping the water-logged sludge out of the pond, screening it for large objects -- shoes, bottles, rocks -- and then sending it through one of two centrifuges, which use gravitational force and a polymer to separate the sludge from the water. The water is pumped back into the pond and the sludge is sent up a conveyor belt and dumped into a truck before it is hauled to a landfill.

Initially, the original estimate for the project was eight weeks, but a second centrifuge was added and now the contractor is processing a truckful of sludge every 90 minutes, to fill at least eight trucks a day, reducing the project timeframe to about four weeks.

Jim Ficarella, superintendent of water & wastewater for the City of Batavia, provided a tour of the project yesterday.


The water that has been squeezed from the sludge just before being piped back to the pond.


There will be about 2,100 dry tons of sludge removed from the pond.




One of the two centrifuges being used.


The pipelines that draw sludge from the pond and return water to the pond.


The screening process for removing large items that have inadvertently fallen into the pond.


The pond with sludge that has floated to the surface and been pushed by the wind to the eastern shoreline.

Ficarella said they know they won't get 100 percent of the sludge out of the pond, but they'll get most of it.

This pond is the second stage of the process. By this point, the wastewater has been at the plant for about three months. The whole process, which includes passing the wastewater through several ponds and a series of wetlands ponds, takes about a year. The clean water is pumped into Tonawanda Creek. 

See our previous story: Batavia Wastewater Treatment Plant, one of city's hidden treasures


The plant remains a birder's paradise, with birders traveling, literally, from all over the world, to visit the plant.

November 25, 2014 - 8:45am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The Town of Batavia needs to treat more wastewater these days, and possibly into the future, so it must purchase additional capacity in the treatment plant on Treadeasy Avenue.

If plans are approved, the town will pay the city nearly $2 million for an additional 500,000 gallons of capacity. 

The $2 million can be used by the city to repair and upgrade existing sewer lines or sewer-related infrastructure. Legally, it can't be used for anything else.

The treatment facility opened in 1990 with the intention that it serve both the town and the city. The total cost was $48 million, with $39 million being paid by state and federal grants. The city covered more than $8 million of the local share of the cost and the town more than $500,000.

For the price, the city obtained 3.5 million gallons per-day capacity and the town 350,000 gallons per day.

The town now occasionally exceeds its capacity, City Manager Jason Molino said, especially after two yogurt plants opened in the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park.

Molino said the town also anticipates additional manufacturing growth, which means an even greater need for sewer capacity.

Residential growth, such as the new housing development on East Main Road, doesn't greatly increase the need for more capacity, Molino said.

The process of increasing capacity for the town will take up to 12 months, since the town is broken into sewer districts and there will need to be a series of public hearings before the town board can approve bonds to cover the $2 million expense.

The fee is based on a series of complex, and legally mandated, calculations that Public Works Director Sally Kuzon explained briefly for council members.

Previously: Batavia Wastewater Treatment Plant, one of city's hidden treasures

August 31, 2012 - 2:30pm

About a week ago, a black swan flew into the Batavia Wastewater Treatment Plant and has been hanging out ever since.

Black swans are native to Australia and it's highly unlikely this rare species made it to Batavia on its own.

The bird is likely an escapee of a private collection.

Because black swans were thought not to exist prior to the 18th Century, when they were unexpectedly discovered in Australia, statistician Nassim Nicholas Taleb named his theory of extremely rare events "black swans." (Recommend reading: Taleb's book "Fooled by Randomness.")

I spent more than 90 minutes this morning at the treatment plant, but with 20 mph winds, all of the big birds, including white swans and blue herons, not to mention the black swan, seemed to have sought shelter elsewhere.

A plant worker told me other photographers have been at the plant this past week and successfully captured pictures of the swan. I'll try again on a less windy day, but if a reader has a picture of this bird in Batavia they would like to share, please send it to howard at the batavian dot com (reformat, of course).

Meanwhile, I did get the picture below this morning of some ducks.

May 15, 2012 - 11:16am

It was a beautiful morning and on the spur of the moment, I decided to drop in on the Batavia Wastewater Treatment Plant and take some pictures of birds at the facility. Here are six shots from this morning.

Previously: Batavia Wastewater Treatment Plant, one of city's hidden treasures

September 15, 2011 - 10:53pm

When I did the story on the Batavia Wastewater Treatment Plant I didn't get around to taking a walk on the nature trails off Donahue Road, behind the plant.

The trails are maintained by the treatment plant staff and open to the public for hiking (no hunting, trapping or fishing allowed).

This even, I took Pachuco for a walk and brought my camera along. To give you idea of what's there, here are a few of the photos I took.

August 31, 2011 - 11:59pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, outdoors, nature, Batavia Wastewater Treatment Plant.

It's a place teeming with wildlife, a bit of a birder's paradise. It's 400 acres of accessible open space where local residents can walk their dogs, go for a jog or just enjoy a stroll along well-maintained paths.

Some might call it a park.

We call it the Batavia Wastewater Treatment Plant.

A lot of area residents, even if they know of the plant, may not know it's open to the public, or appreciate its natural aesthetics.

"It's great that the city is able to provide access to this great resource," said Tom O'Donnell, president of the Buffalo Ornithological Society. "It's a unique place to view waterfowl and shore birds."

Some 180 different species of birds have been spotted on the property during its 21-year history, including herons, loons, egrets, hawks, terns, swans and, of course, a variety of ducks and geese.

Birders from throughout the region know of the facility and have even traveled from as far away as Finland specifically to go birding in Batavia.

What makes the plant unique is the lack of reeds and trees between the birder and the birds, said O'Donnell. The vantage point, with the raised berms around the lagoons, give birders an exceptional angle to view waterfowl and shore birds.

It's tempting to call the fenced-in treatment plant a bird sanctuary, but it's prime function is to treat the city's effluent and turn it into something environmentally safe to pump back into the Tonawanda Creek.

The process is all natural -- no chemicals -- and it takes six to nine months for a molecule of water to pass from the facility's mechanical screen to the gravity outflow pipe near the pedestrian bridge at Walnut Street on the Tonawanda.

According to City Manager Jason Molino, the treatment plant is the largest lagoon system east of the Mississippi.

"That plant is a resource that I don’t think people understand," Molino said following a city council meeting last week. "It’s a special plant. It’s 400 acres. It doesn’t use chemical treatment. It’s natural treatment, so there’s no chemical cost. Only four people run it, seven days a week. You find me a sewer plant that has low labor costs like that, low treatment costs -- that's why our sewer rates are some of the lowest in Western New York."

And the plant is paid for. A combination of federal grants and municipal bonds helped get the plant constructed and the bonds are all paid off.

It even generates a little revenue (besides sewer-rate fees). A contractor pays up to $6,000 a year to harvest fat head minnows from some of the ponds. The minnows were brought in to help balance the treatment of the water, and while birds feast on the little fish, they breed faster than even the hungriest herons can consume them.

The plant's natural treatment process is not without precedent, according to Rick Volk, chief operator of the wastewater plant.

"The idea of lagoon treatment is as old as Egypt," Volk said. "What we did in Batavia is take a system that is as old as Egypt and apply new technology."

From 2.5 to 3.5 million gallons of raw sewage arrives at the plant daily (capacity is 5 million gallons per day). It is pumped into a screening process that removes everything larger than a cigarette butt, then goes through an aerated grit chamber to remove sand and dirt (this is the one part of the plant that produces any real stench).

After screening, the effluent is pumped into aerated ponds. The ponds provide oxygen treatment that consumes matter in the wastewater. Air is pumped into the water by 200 horsepower compressors. This process takes about a month.

The aerated ponds are popular with ducks who can be found by the dozens either in the water or resting on the long, black aeration pipes that float on the surface of the water.

The wastewater is then fed alum to assist in phosphorus removal as it flows into two secondary ponds. The 45-acre ponds are up to 8-feet deep where biological activity and settling removes more waste. The process takes up to 42 days.

Next, a lift station hoists the water up above the four tertiary ponds, which are from 25 to 35 acres each and have an adjustable depth of 3 to 12 feet. At this point, most of the suspended solids are removed.

This is where you'll find minnows and the waterfowl who feed on them, as well as a variety of other birds flitting through the air, from northern flickers to least flycatchers.

The final step on a molecule of water's journey is to pass through one of three wetlands -- ponds with reeds and other aquatic plants that help "put the final polish," as Volk said, on the wastewater.

The largest of the ponds is popular with ducks, geese, herons and snowy egrets.

The whole process is designed to ensure that only water that is safe for people, crops, fowl and fish is piped back into the Tonawanda.

Plant staff conduct frequent tests -- regulated by the state -- in a lab at the facility to ensure each step of the process is cleaning the waste as it should and that the final product shipped out to the Tonawanda is up to environmental standards.

Staff is on duty from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., which is the only time the ponds are accessible to the public.

The current four staff members are about half of what the city needed to run its pre-1990s wastewater plant, according to Volk.

While not officially a park, as long as the plant is open, area residents are welcome to visit anytime during plant hours, Volk said.  

Guests are asked to sign a registry in the main building, but are then free to wander the property. With permission, guests can drive their cars -- it can be a long, long walk to the tertiary ponds -- on the well-maintained gravel roads that surround the ponds.

Volk said there are times when work being performed by staff will prevent guests from driving on the roads, which is why it is necessary to ask first.

And if you go, you really want to get back to either the tertiary ponds or the larger of the three wetlands. This is where you will see the greatest variety of birds.

There's also a park of sorts on the west end of the facility, along Donahue Road. There's a small parking lot and footpaths that allow, at points, for visitors to view the tertiary ponds as well as a reconstructed wetland -- abatement for a wetland destroyed when the plant was built. The area is open to the public at all times, but no hunting or trapping is allowed.

More reading: The Wiki Guide to Birds.

If you have trouble viewing the slide show below, click here.

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