The East Hampton Town Board unanimously voted last week to close the town’s scavenger waste plant on Springs-Fireplace Road by November 30.
The decision on Thursday, June 5, will save approximately $800,000 each year in the long run, according to Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell.
“Closing the facility will have a positive impact on the town’s finances and budget,” he said Thursday. “The consultant we hired put his finger on it: We’re spending $800,000 a year and not getting incremental value out of that expense. We’re basically incurring the expense to ship waste out of town, when 50 percent of it is already being shipped privately.”
Over the winter, Lombardo Associates, hired by the town to study wastewater management, presented the Town Board with their findings about the financial feasibility of keeping the scavenger waste plant open. Their study concluded there is little to no value in continuing operations there.
The scavenger waste plant had treated septic waste beginning in 1983, but in 2012 it was downscaled to a transfer station after the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation charged that the facility exceeded its permit limit for nitrogen 17 times, for suspended solids 56 times, for mercury twice, and for iron twice. An annual average of approximately 22,000 gallons comes in daily to be shipped elsewhere, rather than treated onsite.
Now, three local carters drop off their sewage, which is then shipped to treatment plants farther west by a contractor. Since the amount of waste the transfer station can hold has been capped at 10,000 gallons per day, many waste haulers have adjusted by buying larger trucks and transporting sewage to other facilities, where it costs less to deposit each gallon.
To add to the financial infeasibility, the facility is at the top of two watersheds, and there has been contamination over the years from the landfill there as well as from the scavenger waste plant, according to Lombardo Associates.
Additionally, Mr. Cantwell said the town collects $500,000 a year from a scavenger waste tax added on to property owners’ tax bills, which would also be eliminated by 2023 when the town pays off its debt. The town is in the process of paying off a bond on the facility and it is currently running a deep deficit, so it will have to continue to tax residents for a few years. Next year the tax levy would be about $330,000, down from $533,000 collected last year. By 2023, the town will be collecting around $22,000 in property taxes and by 2024 if will zero out, according to the Town Finance Director Len Bernard. If the Town sticks to its amortization schedule, it will pay it off the bond by 2023.
Mr. Bernard noted that by 2019, the Town could be in a position to pay off the bond. However, they have not yet decided what they will do.
“The spending cuts and tax savings won’t be fully incurred in the first year,” Mr. Cantwell said. “The scavenger waste district will still continue, because there will be a $100,000 debt service each year over the next four to five years.”
He said that the town will have to take on the decommissioning cost, about $100,000 a year over the next couple years, but even with the phasing-out costs, the town would realize a net savings of $400,000 in the first year as well as saving $200,000 in property taxes.
He said the town wouldn’t realize the full savings of $800,000 each year until two to three years later.