When new development projects are announced, residents often don’t think about the new sewer, water and electrical lines that are required.

In Central New York, Micron’s new semiconductor plant is expected to use nearly 50 million gallons of water per day.

Onondaga County’s wastewater treatment agency says its already busy developing plans to handle the volume, along with the new development expected to come with it.

Shannon Harty, commissioner of the Onondaga County Department of Water Environment Protection, said it is required to balance the improvements that come with new development while continuing to provide a vital service for the public every day, dealing with things from backups caused by non-flushable items to damage from summer storms. 

What You Need To Know

  • In Central New York, Micron’s new semiconductor plant is expected to use nearly 50 million gallons of water per day

  • When new development projects are announced, we often don’t think about the new sewer, water, and electrical lines that are required

  • Onondaga County’s wastewater treatment agency says they are already busy developing plans to handle the volume along with the new development expected to come with it

“This plant is operating at 50 to 60 percent capacity on an average daily basis,” she said of the agency’s Oak Orchard plant, which will end up serving Micron’s development at the White Pine site down the road, the support industries and new housing around it. She showed off the systems at work every day to make sure the county’s wastewater is thoroughly treated before it re-enters streams and rivers.

“When the wastewater first comes in, it goes through a process called screening and grit-removal,” she said. “We’re pulling out all of the stones, the toilet paper, anything that’s getting flushed down the toilet. We want to pull that out right away.”

From there the water goes through a multi step process that includes aeration — then any additional components are allowed to settle before chemicals treat the water.

“We put some sodium bisulfate in there to kill and remove the chlorine, and then it goes out to the Oneida River,” she said.

She said there are things the public can do to make their jobs easier, like only flushing toilet paper, never putting grease down the drain and refraining from using sump pumps during storms, allowing water to flow properly. During storms, she asks that everyone disconnect their sump pumps.

The remarkable thing about wastewater facilities and those who keep them running is that they deal with all of this while having much bigger challenges on their plate. Utilities are a major key to unlock any future major development in the area.

“We’re going to be expanding our treatment capacity to meet what’s coming,” she said.

What’s coming is pretty big. In Central New York, wastewater treatment is a key aspect of Micron’s plans to build a more than 2 million-square-foot semiconductor plant just down the road. This summer, Micron’s announced projected daily water usage of 48 million gallons per day turned heads around the area. They said it’s a “worst-case scenario,” taking into account every possibility, but that means utility providers have to prepare for it.

Harty said her team partnered with CNY water provider OCWA to come up with an innovative solution to deal with the massive amount of wastewater coming back to the plant, a lot of which she says will have already been pretreated by Micron to remove chemicals they will then reuse.

She said much of the water will already be fairly clean, so after it is treated in a separate facility, the plan is to sell them back their own treated wastewater to make up a portion of their water requirements.

“It helps us create a revenue stream to pay for the infrastructure that we are building, and it helps reduce the amount of infrastructure that OCWA needs to build out for the water they need to provide,” she said.

She says that new infrastructure will serve both the plant and the expanded needs of the region where the population is expected to swell, and that added customer base is what keeps the expanded utilities from new development like micron from impacting locals' wallets.

“This new pump station, we are going to have expanded customers that are going to be connected to that that we are now going to be able to charge, the largest being Micron,” she said.

So while much of wastewater treatment deals with managing the day-to-day needs of the community, when it comes to New York state’s expanding manufacturing sector, she said growth cannot happen without cooperation between entities like Micron and municipal utility providers.

“We need to provide capacity to meet the needs of the new homes the new businesses the new restaurants,” she said.

Harty says there are plans in place to use portions of the property to develop new pump facilities to handle the load and to isolate Micron’s wastewater from the rest of the county's, while general improvements to the facility will enable areas of Clay that currently rely on septic to be connected to the system, further boosting revenue.