Sewer company used its generators this summer

To save money for an upgrade
Thu, 11/19/2020 - 5:15pm

The Block Island Wastewater Treatment Plant, just like the island itself, used to be powered by generators, but those generators were turned off after the wind farm started to generate electricity.

However, plant Supt. Dylan Chase turned the generators back on during the high-use summer months this year, resulting in a savings of about $38,000. The saved money will eventually be used to upgrade a generator at the plant that’s due for an overhaul. Chase said that the overhaul will cost about $80,000. His plan to use the generators again next year should get the plant to the point where they can cover the cost of the overhaul, he said.

The generators were last used in 2017 when the wind farm went online.

The members of the Sewer Commission discussed the idea at its meeting on Monday, Nov. 16.

Commission Chair Pete McNerney said he wanted to see the money saved put into the department’s budget so the saved funds could be tracked.

“I understand if it moves up and down but we wanted to earmark it specifically for rebuilding the generators,” said McNerney. “If we’re going to run them in the summertime, we’ll need that sooner than later. It’s prudent business.”

“I think that’s smart planning, if it happens,” said member Brad Marthens.

“It’ll happen,” said McNerney. “Unless the money was needed to use somewhere else, I think Dylan has that earmarked for the generators.”

“I think that’s the direction we’re headed — to see how those potential savings are evolving and if you have excess reserve line items at the end of the year. You can set aside those funds for the rebuild” of the generators, said Town Finance Director Amy Land.

Chase said improving the generators “is a priority. I assure you we will make this work.”

Generators were also on the mind of Water Company Supt. John Breunig, who said his generator recently failed due to an outdated control panel. He was asking the Water Commission permission to spend up to $25,000 on a new backup control panel. He said the current one was installed in 2003. Breunig said the generator itself was in good shape and should last another 15 years.

Town engineer Jim Geremia said that the panel was so old “the materials to fix them are no longer available from the manufacturer.”

The motion to approve the expense was approved.

“Better safe than sorry,” said Marthens.

“If we take anything from this meeting it is that emergency backup generators are enormously important,” said Breunig.

At the beginning of the meeting, Marthens asked for a moment of silence for long-time board member Steve Draper, who passed away earlier this month.

“Steve will be greatly missed. I don’t know any area of this island that he didn’t have something to do with,” said Marthens.