Last week, I made another trip to Kanawha City, to the Headquarters of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The purpose of the meeting was to seek a re-start on the Town of Marlinton’s Plan-of-Corrective-Action (POCA).
As I have made known before in the Mayor’s Corner, two words best explain Marlinton’s biggest challenge regarding violations at the sewer treatment plant. The two words are Inflow-Infiltration. I & I are the two letters that abbreviate the situation. The abbreviation explains a common problem with every sewer collection system across the country that is more than 40 years old.
During wet weather conditions, peak out-flow volumes exceed the Town’s permit perimeters, putting the plant in violation. Our permit maximum allowable is 200,000 gallons per day (gpd). With the ground saturated with rainwater, like we have had these last several weeks, the outflow can reach more that 400,000 gpd. But, two other numbers can explain, even confirm, the cause of the problem.
At the time of this writing, our plant effluent is averaging 244,000 gpd. Customer input is 66,000 gpd. The difference in these numbers comes from groundwater that seeps into sewer collection lines, some of which are more than 80 years old. Ironically, the Riverside area of Town has some of the newer lines and we are nearly certain that the Greenbrier River, when up, is getting into the system somewhere in that area.
The Town has and will continue to do all we can to alleviate the problem.
Still the DEP wants us to fix the problem, that at some point will cost tens of thousands of dollars. Their Order states lack of funding is no excuse for lack of correction. This is what has sent us down the road of hiring a professional engineering company to evaluate the entire system.
Obviously, we don’t want to handle and treat three gallons of groundwater for every gallon of sewage, anymore that the DEP wants gallons over and above the permit allowance.
As we look for solutions to DEP violations, another number is interesting.
The larger lagoon, aka the polishing pond, is 5.4 acres in size. A one-inch rainfall on the surface of the larger lagoon will collect 192,000 gallons. That nearly exceeds the permit for that day itself.
All those concerned about the extra water should understand, each gallon passes through a chlorination process and then, a de-chlorination chamber before the effluent exits, into the river.
Also, I am told our treatment system will never achieve “the required 85% reduction in pollutants.” Mainly because our water source, Knapp Creek, is “too clean.”
Any pollutants found upstream of the intake to the water plant should be expected to be found downstream of the sewer treatment plant.