Significant water and sewer improvements amounting to just over $30 million were identified for the village of Aurora in a report prepared for the Cayuga County Water and Sewer Authority.
The report, part of CCWSA's ongoing countywide water and sewer master plan review, recommends Aurora replace its over 60-year-old water treatment system, according to a news release issued Tuesday.
Wells College, the longtime owner and operator of the plant serving the village, is looking to get out of the water business, so Aurora is exploring its options. In the meantime, the village, Inns of Aurora and the college are working together to retrofit the Wells water plant to handle the possibility of algal toxins this summer.
It will cost an estimated $500,000 to $750,000 to equip the Wells water plant with the necessary filtration to ensure safe water for the village until a new water source is found. All three stakeholders have individually and jointly been seeking funding to help cover those costs, Aurora Mayor Bonnie Bennett said in a letter sent to village water customers March 1.
The report prepared for CCWSA focused on creating a new, deeper, drinking water intake in Cayuga Lake along with a new treatment plant in Aurora with advanced treatment for algal toxins, the release said. Doug Selby, CCWSA project advisor, first mentioned this idea to the public during Aurora's public meeting to discuss water issues in February.
A deeper water intake would provide better water quality and increase the village's water supply, equipping it with the ability to expand to meet needs beyond Aurora in the future, Selby said. He added that piping water to other municipalities could also be an option for the future.
The new water intake and treatment plant would cost an estimated $11.5 million, Selby said.
The estimate also includes additional investment to connect the proposed Aurora system to the Auburn and Owasco systems to provide improved resiliency and redundancy to the county's water supply.
Connecting to another existing water supply, such as the system serving Union Springs, is another possible solution for Aurora but that has not been fully evaluated yet, Selby said.
Selby said the village will be looking further into the pipeline option with its own preliminary engineering report, building on the work already completed by CCWSA, which will help determine the village's best option for a new water provider.
Aurora's board of trustees voted to pursue its $40,000 engineering report during a regular village board meeting on Feb. 21. Wells College and the Inns of Aurora have agreed to equally share that cost with the village, Bennett said in the letter to water customers.
Initially, the village was quoted $75,000 minimum for the completion of the engineering report, but the cost was lowered as they are continuing to work with the engineering firm that prepared the reports for the county authority.
"The report is a necessary requirement for seeking any kind of federal, state or county funding," Bennett said in the letter. "It will assess all possible water sources – upgrading the current plant, other municipal sources, accessing groundwater, building our own plant – and the results will determine our course of action."
In addition to water improvements, the CCWSA's report also recommended "extensive refurbishment and improvements to the 1960s-era Aurora wastewater treatment plant as well as actions to control infiltration into the sewer collection system."
Selby said the estimate for the sewer improvements is about $18.5 million and includes adding lakeside properties south of Aurora into the sewer system, which could be implemented further down the road.
"These are very rough estimates," Selby said, adding that it is still very early on in the process and things will become more concrete when the village completes its own report.
“Although critical for the village, the cost of the proposed water and sewer improvements is far beyond the ability of the village’s 200 residents to bear without outside financial assistance," Bennett said in the water and sewer authority press release. "My foremost goal is to replace the old Wells College water supply with a safe and reliable system.”
"Not surprisingly, our master planning effort is revealing similar needs throughout Cayuga County municipalities. We have already begun examining what role CCWSA can play in cooperation with the State, County and municipalities in helping solve these pressing and expensive water and sewer infrastructure challenges," said Jeanine Wilson, CCWSA director, in the press release.