The city of Poughkeepsie, New York, recently received a $3.57 million grant toward modernizing its sewer and repairing and replacing damaged infrastructure.
As one of the older cities in New York, Poughkeepsie’s sewers are an aging, brick system. On the shores of the Hudson River, Poughkeepsie also has a mission to protect its water source by treating stormwater and ensuring the city has clean drinking water.
When Mayor Robert Rolison took office, he stated he quickly learned that it’s “not what you see you have to worry about. It’s what you don’t see.”
Rolison is grateful that the state of New York has made money available for such improvements. Poughkeepsie actively looks for and applies for grants to continually improve the city, whose top issue, according to the mayor, is safe infrastructure.
Poughkeepsie partnered with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation as well as Environmental Facilities Corporation to gather funding for the project. These entities also regulate and approve the city’s plans to use the funding.
According to Richard DuPilka, city engineer, the funding that was awarded started with an engineering planning grant followed by a study to determine how much stormwater was leaking into the groundwater and what was overwhelming the pump stations and sewer system. The grant’s focus was on the sewer system, which was original to the city.
The grant also included publicizing the city’s need for the grant and putting in meters to assess water flow and conditions.
Particularly in times of heavy rain and runoff, municipal leaders found that the water pollution control plant would quickly become unable to handle the amount of water sent to the plant. Groundwater, stormwater and runoff are displaced into the Hudson River, where it undergoes natural filtration, but wastewater and sewage go to the plant, where it can be treated. However, in the older portions of the city, these lines are not separated: It all goes to the water control plant, causing it to exceed capacity.
While the city is mostly maxed out in new buildable areas, there is also a focus on separating wastewater and sewer pipes in pre-built areas whenever an opportunity presents itself. When doing work on pre-built structures, the newly installed stormwater and sewage lines connect to already-separated lines a few blocks away. These improvements also help to keep the plant from becoming overwhelmed.
Throughout 2019-20, the city surveyed and inspected 24,000 linear feet of large diameter sewers and 267 manholes to assess their condition. A need for lining was recognized when leakage became evident and layers of brick fell apart in the pipes and were picked up at the pump station. Cameras were placed into the sewer pipes to see where water was leaking through the bricks or roots had broken through.
“The main thing is watching what’s coming down the line,” DuPilka stressed.
After a nearly two-year process, the grant has been used primarily to identify a large lining project to line the brick sewer infrastructure in order to prevent further leakage into the groundwater. There are a few areas that will be in need of greater repair or even need replaced; however, “the lion’s share is lining,” Rolison explained. The sewer area that will need to be lined and repaired spans approximately a mile.
Currently, the city is gearing up to create a design for the necessary repairs. This design will then be submitted for approval. Following approval, the design will be put out for bids on the contract.
DuPilka mentioned that the city has a multi-year plan in place to address the rising challenges of the sewer system and stay ahead of work that will need to be done. “We know where the areas are and know what needs to be done,” he assured. The long-term master plan is also prioritized as to what will need improvements first. This list is placed on an annual environmental list, which helps the city to identify and apply for a grant when it becomes available. Otherwise, the city takes care of each need as it arises and as the funding becomes available.
“We have approached this in a way so we can be successful in planning and acquiring necessary funds,” Rolison explained. As a public health and environmental issue, it is important that the city have a blueprint for continued remediation for administrations to come, he said. “Water is the life blood of the community and it is important to be good stewards to the Hudson River.”