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December 10, 2011

 

Virgil wastewater plant cited by DEC

Town supervisor expects engineer will need to be hired to remedy discharge violations

By STEVE HUGHES
Staff Reporter
shughes@cortlandstandardnews.net

VIRGIL — The town’s water treatment plant has violated its state pollutant discharge elimination system permit 25 times since January 2009.
Town Supervisor John Kaminski received a letter from the state Department of Environmental Conservation on Nov. 15 detailing the violations and informed the Town Board Thursday night.
When the plant was inspected on July 28, the inspector also did not receive a copy of the written sampling plan, which the department requires during inspections.
A written plan details the samples taken by the plant’s operators.
The town owns the sewer plant but operation of the sewer and water district is contracted out to Greek Peak for $6,000 a month.
Greek Peak built the plant in the 1970s and the town bought the plant in 1999. It primarily serves the ski center, Hope Lake Lodge and townhouses constructed for the company.
To resolve the discharge problems, the town will likely have to hire an engineer, Kaminski told the board.
“I think that’s the only way we can solve this,” he said.
Virgil has until Jan. 15 to respond to the report with an engineering report addressing the violations. If it does not do that, it could be fined $37,000 a day, Kaminski said.
As of now, there will not be any fines, Kaminski said.
“I spoke with the inspector and she has agreed to work with us,” he told the board.
Every violation was in the monthly report sent to the Town Hall, but the Town Board does not normally review the reports.
The board did request to be notified of future violations.
In the letter, the town violated its permitted level of total suspended solids six times, the permitted level of fecal coliform five times and its permitted level of ammonia four times.
The most common violation was the biological oxygen demand limit, which was violated 10 times.
Biological oxygen demand is the amount of dissolved oxygen required to break down organic material.
Daniel Synder, the town’s attorney, questioned the severity of the violations during the board meeting.
“Is this a case of 10 parts per million versus 11 parts per million?” he said.
Scott King, manager of the plant, confirmed that some of the violations are that minor.
“In one instance, the DEC measured the amount of one sample at 16 parts per million and the limit is 15,” he told the board.
The written sampling plan was available during the July inspection, but the state never asked to see it, King said.
“It was literally within arm’s reach,” he said.
One issue that was raised by Kaminski is whether the plant is too small for the volume of water it handles.
That determination has to be made by an engineer, King said.
Operating a facility like the one in Virgil is a complex task and things do not always work perfectly, King said.
“When you have violations, you endeavor to make it work like it’s supposed to but it doesn’t always work that way,” he said.
Sudden weather events and heavier than normal usage can cause a violation.
“It can take weeks to stabilize, it’s like have an upset stomach,” King said. “This is the digestion of organic materials.”
The treatment plant was upgraded five years ago at a cost of nearly $1 million, increasing its capacity by 25 percent to 80,000 gallons per day. The work was done, in part, to accommodate the 150-room Hope Lake Lodge hotel built by Greek Peak and resolve permit violations similar to those that have recently occurred again.

 

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