Albany County digester project on hold after soaring costs



ALBANY – A proposed partnership on an anaerobic digester project between Albany and Saratoga counties that was supposed to save the two groups millions and reduce waste incineration is on hold after total cost surges by 40%.

Earlier this year, Albany County quietly suspended its role in the project. The move came as the planned price for the facility rose from $ 45 million to $ 69 million. County lawmakers learned the project was on hold after a single line in a capital projects update indicated the county would not go ahead with the project.

The digester has been under construction for several years, and in 2018, the counties announced a joint partnership after a feasibility study. The facility would recover waste from the Albany, Menands and Mechanicville processing plants and turn it into energy. It was to save counties $ 2 million per year each for the next two decades by ending waste incineration and reducing transportation and landfill costs.

The two counties would share the construction, operation and maintenance of the digester.

Angelo Gaudio, executive director of the Albany County Water Purification District, said several factors caused the county to put the project on ice, including changes in the waste disposal market.

More landfills are placing restrictions on what can be dumped there, in part because of concerns about the leaching of PFAS chemicals into the ground, Gaudio said. Changes were also made to the volume of waste that counties were anticipating. These and other factors drove the costs up to such an extent that the project was not financially feasible at the present time.

Gaudio said that despite the hiatus, the two counties are still working together to seek alternatives, especially if it still makes sense for the counties to pursue a joint project or complete separate projects.

“We are looking at alternative options from both sides,” he said.

Clifton Park supervisor Phil Barrett said he understands Saratoga County is looking for alternative routes in the future.

“Personally, I think it would be good if we could attract investment from the private sector,” he said.

GOP leader in the Albany County Legislature Frank Mauriello has expressed disappointment that the project has been put on hold.

“It is unfortunate that we have just learned this from a line in a capital planning document. Going forward, it will take a collaborative effort to resolve this green energy challenge in our county.”

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