Sewage treatment

December 18, 2013

Scientists Turn Their Gaze Toward Tiny Threats to Great Lakes

Source: The New York Times, December 15, 2013
Posted on:

The newest environmental threat to the Great Lakes is very, very small.

Tiny plastic beads used in hundreds of toiletries like facial scrubs and toothpastes are slipping through water treatment plants and turning up by the tens of millions in the Great Lakes. There, fish and other aquatic life eat them along with the pollutants they carry — which scientists fear could be working their way back up the food chain to humans.

Scientists have worried about plastic debris in the oceans for decades, but focused on enormous accumulations of floating junk. More recently, the question of smaller bits has gained attention, because plastics degrade so slowly and become coated with poisons in the water like the cancer-causing chemicals known as PCBs.

”Unfortunately, they look like fish food,” said Marcus Eriksen, executive director of the 5 Gyres organization, speaking of the beads found in the oceans and, now, the lakes. His group works to eliminate plastic pollution.

Studies published in recent months have drawn attention to the Great Lakes, where there may be even greater concentrations of plastic particles than are found in oceans. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has also been looking at the impact of microplastics on marine life.…

August 30, 2013

Oxford treatment plant working to resolve pollution violations

Source: Anniston Star (AL), August 28, 2013
Posted on:

Oxford’s wastewater treatment plant could face thousands of dollars in penalties if it does not comply with state regulations after committing two years’ worth of pollution violations, according to a state environmental official today.

Plant management, however, says such penalties will be avoided, citing significant progress being made in recent months to correct the problems, including a local company lessening its discharges of formaldehyde into the city treatment system.

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management on July 29 ordered Oxford’s Tull C. Allen Wastewater Treatment Plant to show detailed reports of its progress in managing its pollution discharges into Choccolocco Creek. Failure to comply could mean thousands of dollars in penalties — the latest in a string of warnings and penalties from ADEM to bring the Oxford facility into compliance with its permit.

The treatment plant has 90 days from the issuance of the ADEM order to submit its reports on how it’s fixing its problems, said Scott Hughes, spokesman for ADEM. The facility also has a year from the order to be in full compliance, Hughes said.

“If they don’t comply, then they open themselves up to additional enforcement actions including civil penalties,” Hughes said.

ADEM levied a $20,450 penalty against the treatment plant last year for discharge violations into the creek.…

August 9, 2013

Groups Score Victory in Fracking Wastewater Fight

Source:, August 7, 2013

If not for the effort of Clean Water Action and Earthjustice, a wastewater treatment plant in southwestern Pennsylvania might have spent each day of the past three years dumping up to 500,000 gallons of untreated natural gas drilling wastewater into the Monongahela River.

Instead, the plant has not discharged a drop of waste into the Monongahela River, a drinking water source for 350,000 people. And under a new permit issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the plant will not be allowed to discharge anything, unless it proves it can comply with the law and treat all of the contaminants in fracking wastewater.

The DEP had initially tried to fast-track the planned wastewater plant in Masontown, PA, quietly allowing Shallenberger Construction Inc. to dump inadequately treated fracking wastewater directly into the Monongahela River until the company built all of the necessary treatment facilities at the plant.

“When fracking began in western Pennsylvania, the gas industry treated our rivers as a convenient place to dispose of their waste,” stated Myron Arnowitt, PA State Director for Clean Water Action. “We knew we had to act and we are glad to see that this agreement upholds the protection for our drinking water that every Pennsylvanian expects and deserves.”

In 2008, pollution levels spiked so high in a 70-mile stretch of the Monongahela River that the entire city of Pittsburgh was urged to drink bottled water. The DEP acknowledged that the problem was due in large part to untreated fracking wastewater being discharged from sewage treatment plants. The Shallenberger plant would have added to the contamination

June 12, 2013

Report: Septic systems big contributor to Great Bay pollution

Source:, May 16, 2013
By: Aaron Sanborn

Sources of nonpoint nitrogen pollution in the Great Bay estuary is spread out almost equally between septic systems, fertilizers and atmospheric pollution, according to a new report.

The N.H. Department of Environmental Services unveiled its draft report, Great Bay Nitrogen Non-Point Source Study, during a two-hour presentation Thursday at its Portsmouth field office. Release of the report was highly anticipated given the long fight between local communities and the federal Environmental Protection Agency over more stringent regulation of area wastewater treatment plants.

Nonpoint sources have been identified as contributing to 68 percent of the bay’s nitrogen load with the remaining 32 percent from sewer plants along the Great Bay estuary that release nitrogen into the waterways during the treatment process

Until the release of Thursday’s report, no study had been done on the breakdown of these sources into the estuary. Ted Diers, watershed management bureau administrator for DES, described these sources as being hidden within a “black box” until now.

“We knew it was there, but we didn’t know what was inside,” he said. “My hope for the study is that it generates much discussion and planning for a future that includes a Great Bay with less nitrogen input.”

The report indicates 33 percent of nonpoint nitrogen pollution in the estuary comes from atmospheric deposition, while human waste from septic systems and chemical fertilizer each contributed 27 percent. Animal waste was cited for 13 percent.…

April 8, 2013

Toxic Wastewater Leads to Fines in RI

Read here about a landfill in Rhode Island that has been fined thousands after toxic wastewater flowed into sewage treatment plant.


January 24, 2013

Bill Would End Towns' Liability for Superfund Site Cleanup

Source: NJ Spotlight, January 23, 2013
By: Tom Johnson

A controversial measure to redefine hazardous waste is being opposed by environmentalists and business groups

Getting dragged into one of the most contentious pollution cleanup cases in New Jersey history is costing dozens of municipalities millions in legal fees, with no end in sight.

The Legislature is moving to eliminate the towns’ liability for cleaning up hazardous waste. But the effort is opposed by an unlikely partnership between some of the state’s biggest business groups and environmental organizations, an alliance that did not escape notice of lawmakers.

“Right now, from what I understand, Jeff Tittel [director of the New Jersey Sierra Club] and the Chemistry Industry Council are actually on the same side of the issue,’’ said Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (R-Bergen). “Maybe the Mayans were correct and the world is coming to an end.’’

The environmentalists and business interests are united in lobbying against a bill (A-3128) that would remove sewage, wastewater, and sludge from the list of hazardous substances specified by the New Jersey Spill Control and Compensation Act.

It is a step proponents say would help extricate more than 75 communities from being responsible for the cleanup of massive dioxin pollution buried in the sediments of the Passaic River, one of the state’s most notorious Superfund toxic waste sites.

The bill cleared the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee last week in a vote split along partisan lines, with the two Republicans on the panel voting against the measure.…

January 23, 2013

Proposed changes to Spill Act raise stink

Source:, January 21, 2013
By: Jared Kaltwasser

Don’t exempt public entities, opponents say

A years-old legal fight over pollution in the lower Passaic River could lead to significant changes in the way the state enforces its 30-year-old Spill Compensation and Control Act.

At issue is whether publicly owned sewer systems, wastewater treatment plants and municipalities are liable for cleanup costs associated with pollution collected or expelled from their systems.

Over the past few months, two bills aimed at limiting public entities’ Spill Act liability were introduced in the state Legislature. The first, sponsored by Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee Chair L. Grace Spencer (D-Newark), cleared Spencer’s committee last week. Spencer’s bill would amend the Spill Act’s definition of hazardous waste so as not to include domestic, commercial or industrial sewage, sludge or wastewater collected or expelled from sewer systems and public wastewater treatment plants.

Another bill, proposed in the state Senate by Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Linden) would simply exempt county and municipal agencies from liability for Spill Act cleanup costs.

Christopher Hartwyk, an attorney pushing for passage of Spencer’s bill, said the original intent of the Spill Act was always to exempt publicly owned treatment works, or POTWs, from paying cleanup costs. But he said the Department of Environmental Protection has misinterpreted the bill.

“The problem is the DEP in a previous case narrowly construed the exemption and this legislation is an attempt to correct that,” he said.

January 4, 2013

South County sewage plant administrator sued over 2010 spill

Source: The Tribune, San Luis Obispo, CA, January 2, 2013
By: Cynthia Lambert

Two years after raw sewage flooded from a South County wastewater treatment plant into an Oceano neighborhood and backed up into some homes, seven residents have sued the administrator of the facility.

In a lawsuit filed Dec. 18, the residents allege that John Wallace, administrator of the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District, and his San Luis Obispo-based engineering firm, Wallace Group, failed to take steps that would have prevented massive flooding in the area in 2010.

The civil lawsuit was filed in San Luis Obispo Superior Court initially by six residents and property owners, including John Carter, Darlene Prebyl, Greg Cobb, Alana Reynolds, and David and Delilah Villalba. A seventh plaintiff, Mary Ehens Stanavage, was added to the suit Dec. 28.

A case management conference has been set for April 23.

The complaint alleges that Wallace and his firm failed to protect the plant’s equipment from flooding, didn’t provide an adequate emergency pump that could operate without shutting down, and didn’t conduct adequate sampling after the spill.

The spill happened Dec. 19, 2010, after rainwater from heavy storms flowed into the treatment plant and caused an electrical short that shut down four influent pumps about 10:30 a.m. Thousands of gallons of sewage spilled into the neighborhood and creeks adjacent to the treatment plant.

Estimates of the spill volume later ranged from about 400,000 gallons to 3 million gallons. The Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board — which issued a $1.1 million fine against the sanitation district in October — estimated that 674,400 gallons spilled.…

December 10, 2012

Tilden mobile home park owner faces environmental charges

Source: Reading Eagle (PA), November 29, 2012
Posted on:

A Tilden Township mobile home park owner was charged Wednesday with illegally discharging untreated sewage into a Schuylkill River tributary and falsifying permit applications, the state Attorney General’s office reported.

Frank Perano, 55, of the 2800 block of Main Street, Morgantown, faces three counts of unlawful conduct under the Clean Air Act and as many counts of tampering with public records, Attorney General Linda Kelly said in a prepared release.

Kelly said an investigation revealed that untreated or improperly treated sewage was discharged from the Village at Pleasant Hills Mobile Home Park in Tilden.

The park near Hamburg is one of more than 70 that Perano owns in Pennsylvania, Delaware and Virginia.

For Pleasant Hills and two other mobile home parks in York and Dauphin counties, Perano also submitted renewal applications for pollutant-discharge permits that contained falsified information regarding sewage treatment, Kelly reported.

Perano could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Filed by the attorney general’s Environmental Crimes Section, the charges will be prosecuted in Berks County.

They come two months after the state Department of Environmental Protection and the federal Environmental Protection Agency announced a $1.3 million settlement with Perano and a series of his corporations, which were accused of violating regulations related to clean drinking water and wastewater treatment.

In a joint consent decree, Perano agreed to pay the settlement and take measures to address the treatment problems.

Perano cooperated with the investigation and did not admit liability as part of the settlement, according to the EPA.

A judge has yet to sign the consent decree, but the DEP does not expect the attorney general’s charges to affect the settlement, said DEP spokeswoman Lisa Kasianowitz.


December 6, 2012

Superbug MRSA identified in US wastewater treatment plants

Source: Biotech Week, November 21, 2012
Posted on:

Staphylococcus aureus

A team led by researchers at the University of Maryland School of Public Health has found that the “superbug” methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is prevalent at several U.S. wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). MRSA is well known for causing difficult-to-treat and potentially fatal bacterial infections in hospital patients, but since the late 1990s it has also been infecting otherwise healthy people in community settings.

“MRSA infections acquired outside of hospital settings – known as community-acquired MRSA or CA-MRSA- are on the rise and can be just as severe as hospital-acquired MRSA. However, we still do not fully understand the potential environmental sources of MRSA or how people in the community come in contact with this microorganism,” says Amy R. Sapkota, assistant professor in the Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health and research study leader. “This was the first study to investigate U.S. wastewater as a potential environmental reservoir of MRSA.”

Because infected people can shed MRSA from their noses and skin and through their feces, wastewater treatment plants are a likely reservoir for the bacteria. Swedish researchers have previously identified the presence of MRSA in WWTPs in Sweden, and this new UMD-led study confirms the presence of MRSA in U.S. facilities. The study was published in the November issue of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.…