Sewage Discharge Issue in Western Maryland & West Virgina

Message From:   Brent Walls
Upper Potomac Riverkeeper
Potomac Riverkeeper Inc.
www.potomacriverkeeper.org
brent@potomacriverkeeper.org

 

The small town of Piedmont, WV has been facing some serious challenges with a depressed economy and a failing infrastructure. Adding to the problems of the Town is a combined sewer overflow (CSO) outlet that has a continuous discharge of sewer water polluting the North Branch Potomac. Combined Sewer Overflows are common in many older towns or cities where storm water from rain events over loads the waste water treatment plants capacity and is rerouted to discharge points; where a combination of rain water and sewer dumps into a river. The current practice with city infrastructure is to separate the storm water from the sewer system, but in older urban areas they are connected. The Federal government required all CSO areas to develop a Long Term Control Plan (LTCP) that would outline how the storm water and sewer water will be disconnected or contained for later treatment. Many large cities have proposed to construct vast under ground storage vaults to capture the rain and sewer water, which then is processed through the treatment plant. During the implementation of the LTCP, the discharges from the CSO outlets are allowed. Each time there is a discharge, it is required to be reported to the State regulatory agency. A discharge should only discharge during and immediately after a rain event. 

 

In the case of Piedmont, the CSO outlet seems to be discharging on a continuous basis and consisting mostly of sewer water. This kind of discharge is illegal and in violation of the Clean Water Act. Two years ago, Potomac Riverkeeper received a report on this exact same site, a continuously discharging CSO outlet. After an investigation by DEP and the town engineer, a valve was found to be open that routed the flow of the sewer water from Piedmont to the waste water treatment plant in Westernport, MD. Apparently, an agreement was reached between the two municipalities to pipe the sewer water. When the valve was closed, the sewer water seemed to stop. I did several follow up visits to the CSO outlet to verify that the discharge had stopped. Only recently this year did the CSO outlet continue to discharge without a rain event. 

 

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection is aware of the problem and may be pursuing an administrative action against the town for failure to comply with the LTCP and allow a continuous discharge from a CSO outlet. I have requested that the State immediately investigate a solution to the continuous discharge of sewer water and locate the "valve" and stop the pollution flowing into the North Branch Potomac River.

 

They did have a person working on the long term control plan to address fixing or eliminating the CSOs. That person is no longer and apparently several council members and mayors have past away? Anyway, the CSOs are allowed to discharge when it rains and yes it is combined sewer/stormwater. When it is not raining, then there is a problem. DEP is aware of this and it sounded like they are in the process of an administrative action. DEP is trying to force Piedmont to continue work on the long term control plan, which is part of the legal consent decree. Keep me posted if you all can on this spot, when ever you float past, let me know what it looks like or is doing so I can track it.

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