Wastewater Treatment Facility

Ithaca Area Wastewater Treatment Facility, Overview


Ithaca Area Wastewater Treatment Facility (IAWWTF) is an Intermunicipal Agency, a successful example of cooperation between multiple municipalities. 

The IAWWTF is jointly owned by three municipalities (The City of Ithaca, and the Towns of Ithaca and Dryden). Representatives of these communities worked together over a 14-year planning and construction period, to create a facility critical to public health and protective of the environment for current and future generations. This treatment plant has been serving its owners' communities since October 1987.
Ithaca Area Wastewater Treatment Facility Arial Photo
Simon Wheeler / ©2008 The Ithaca Journal, used by permission.
The IAWWTF cost $63 million to build. Prior to 1987, the major portion of the wastewater plant was located in what is now the Sciencenter. The Special Joint Committee (SJC), representing the three municipal partners, oversees operations, budget, and regulatory environment for the IAWWTF. 

Regulated/ Permitted

Cayuga Lake is part of the Great Lakes Basin (Oswego-Seneca-Oneida Drainage Basin)> The Great Lakes Water Quality Initiative sets the effluent limits for the IAWWTF. Several agencies are responsible for regulating different aspects of the operations at IAWWTF; the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the New York State Department of Health (DOH), and the National Environmental Laboratory Program (NELAP). The discharge permits for the IAWWTF can be found here.

Wastewater Flows

After water is used in homes, institutions, and businesses, it is delivered as wastewater to the publicly owned sanitary sewer system. There are approximately 80 miles of sanitary sewer mains located underground in the City of Ithaca, with many additional miles in the other areas served. The service area has separate sanitary and stormwater collection systems.

Wastewater flows through the sanitary sewer mains primarily by gravity. In addition, there are a small number of pump stations that help deliver wastewater to the IAWWTF for the treatment. 

The IAWWTF is designed to remove nutrients, solids, and waterborne pathogens from the wastewater and to recycle clean water into Cayuga Lake. The plant treats approximately 6.5 million gallons per day (MGD) of raw sewage, although there are noticeable seasonal variations tied to school schedules. In addition, short term increases in volume, at times of rain fall and snow melt, can reach flow rates of 30 to 35 MGD. This vast increase is due to the infiltration and inflow (I&I) of other water into the sewer. This primarily results from: old sewers with cracks or leaky joints, illegally connected house footing drains, sump pumps, roof drains, and leaky manhole covers. Though these high flow rates exceed the plant's design capacity of 13.1 MGD, the plant still typically meet our mandated effluent limits. 

Along with wastewater from the municipal owners, the IAWWTF also treats peak weather flows diverted from the Cayuga Heights Wastewater Treatment Plant, and trucked wastes including: septage, landfill leachate, municipal sludge, alkaline hydrolysis waste, and airplane deicing fluid. Wastewater from the well drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations is not treated at our facility.