By Marlinton Mayor Sam Felton
Thank you for your positive comments on The Mayors Corner. The original intent was to provide information for you. I am finding it an opportunity for me to vent. As I have said before, “For a sleepy little town with nothing going on – you would be surprised.”
I, like many of you, would like to be working primarily on the issues that make a visible difference. The fact of the matter is a lot of time and expense goes into complying with things that make a difference, but, are unseen to the general public. Realizing this is on the verge of (TMI) too much information – I thought you may be interested to know there is a lot of work going on.
In August 2015 The WVDEP conducted a review of sewer plant records for the period of August 1, 2013, through July 31, 2015. During their review, a list of violations relating to terms and conditions of our (NPDES) National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit were identified. Most violations had to do with exceedances of permit parameters as specified in our permit.
You must remember that once upon a time, combined sewers used surface runoff to dilute waste from toilets and carry it away from urban areas into natural waterways. Sewage treatment can remove some pollutants from toilet waste, but treatment of diluted flow from combined sewers produces larger volumes of treated sewage with similar pollutant concentrations. So, the requirements changed. Modern sanitary sewers are designed to transport domestic and industrial wastewater directly to treatment facilities without dilution.
Having said that, Inflow and Infiltratration is a common problem in virtually all municipal systems and especially a system as old as ours. I/I can still be your friend at times when dilution helps. But, excessive infiltration/inflow may cause overflows during wet weather. This has been our biggest issue in times of heavy rain and is what makes us in violation. Also, dilution of sewage directly increases costs of pumping and chlorination, ozonation, or ultraviolet disinfection.This was the purpose of a storm drain project in the business district about 10 or 12 years ago. Much of Marlinton’s system is a CSS, that is to say a combined system. In other words, some old storm drains and probably, a few sump pumps still send rain water into the sewer system. In dry weather , it is not a problem. In wet weather – we can exceed permitted overflows. Also, dilution of sewage decreases the efficiency of treatment and may cause volumes to exceed design capacity. Although inflow is technically different from infiltration, it is difficult to determine which is causing dilution problems in inaccessible sewers. The EPA defines the term infiltration/inflow as combined contributions from both.
Physical treatment structures include screens and pumps. Primary clarifiers must treat average flows. Peak flows may be accomplished in detention basins. Biological secondary treatment is effective only while the concentration of soluble and colloidal pollutants (typically measured as biochemical oxygen demand or BOD) remains high enough to sustain a population of microorganisms digesting those pollutants. Secondary treatment is expected to remove 85 percent of soluble and colloidal organic pollutants from sewage containing 200 mg/L BOD; but BOD removal by conventional biological secondary treatment becomes less effective with dilution and practically ceases as BOD concentrations entering the treatment facility are diluted below about 20 mg/L. Unremoved organics are potentially converted to disinfection by-products by chemical disinfection prior to discharge. The lesson here is: a lot more happens after you flush.
The frustrating part of these facts, is that the Town was already working toward correcting several of these problems when it was issued an order from DEP citing overflows and other issues arising from I/I. It’s your money. You need to know.
In September 2015, The Town of Marlinton was fined $123,530.00 for these infractions. I have spent a great deal of time working on reducing the fine, so far as I can. The Town would rather spend dollars correcting the problems than to just pay a fine for violations that are more than a year old. In communicating with West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP), the Town submitted general information and explained restrictions of certain amounts within our fund balances.
The Town maintains an Improvement Fund, Perpetual Care for cemetery, Customer Deposit Refunds Account and others. We have a water tank Road Maintenance Reserve. We are required to maintain a Water Repair and Replacement Reserve and Sewer Repair and Replacement Reserve. As you may imagine, while the Town does have a significant cash balance, it is almost entirely obligated in one fashion or another.
The Town’s CSO, Jim Mitchem, has identified a list of improvements. Some have been implemented already. Others are awaiting warmer weather. They include, but, are not limited to:
Repaired out-of-service aerators – going from one working to three working and one on ready standby. We have purchased equipment consisting of recirculation pump, wiring, and conduit to send good bugs from the larger pond back into the smaller pond. Improvements to the Cl2, and DE-chlorination chamber piping. We completed dye testing in December. The freezing over of the pond proved valuable in discerning a flow pattern. The pond will have to be baffled. We plan to upgrade the john-boat we use at the ponds with something more adequate for the testing and repair work. This will be useful during the construction projects to improve treatment capability of the system. We now have back-up power generation ability at the Chlorination building in the event of power failure. We now have a system that will allow us to hook up a portable generator to not only operate the chlorination facilities, but to also power the aerators, as well. This will allow the pond to be completely operational in the event of a power failure. We now have a pump in place which carries both the disinfection, and the DE-chlorination streams to the contact chamber. We are installing lights at the ponds for night time emergency work. The town has cut brush and trees around the lagoons to allow sunlight in. Weeds will be sprayed to keep down future growth around the ponds. An expense never accounted in the past.
I said all that to say this: We’re not done yet.
Last Friday, we had a new number – $55,000.
By law, we cannot co-mingle funds (taking out of one account to pay for something else). But, I can co-mingle amounts in my mind and that would put a new roof on the town hall or complete many of the following projects we would like to do;
Widening of Roadway to Smith Addition at a cost of approximately $15,000.
The Fire Department has requested an emergency ramp to the river at a cost of $5,000.
We have a proposed cost share with DOH on a Third Avenue storm drain of $10,000.
We have a list of 156 fire hydrants that need repaired or replaced at a cost of $1,250. each.
Even when the (new) refurbished water plant is complete, we will still have an ailing water distribution system that exists on a wing and a prayer – and I could go on!
I, therefore, think it not unreasonable to go back to DEP and again respectfully request they reconsider the amount of the fine levied upon the Town.