Perryville settles with state over wastewater treatment plant violations

The town of Perryville will pay $58,576 in penalties for violations at the municipal wastewater treatment plant during 2012, according to a settlement with the Maryland Department of the Environment accepted unanimously Tuesday by the Perryville Board of Town Commissioners .

Town officials disputed the violations, claiming they were the result of toxic materials that had been discharged into the wastewater system and could not have been anticipated by the town. Those discharges affected the treatment plant's operations and forced it to exceed its permitted effluent discharge limits, town officials said.

Mayor Jim Eberhardt called the agreement "probably as favorable a settlement as we could have reached with them."

The commissioners and mayor voted 4-0 during their town meeting to accept the agreement without further comment. Commissioner Barbara Brown was absent Tuesday.

Town Administrator Denise Breder said after the meeting the town had dealt with the issue "as best it could," but still exceeded permitted limits for discharge of the nutrients phosphorous and ammonia-nitrogen.

The plant has a NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) Discharge Permit to "discharge, in pertinent part, certain levels of pollutants" from the plant into Mill Creek, according to copy of the settlement provided by Breder.

Workers at the treatment plant determined in April 2012 that the biomass used to treat wastewater had died off because of an incoming substance with "high alkalinity and acetone levels," causing the plant to violate its limits on discharge of ammonia-nitrogen, according to the settlement.

Officials with MDE waived the penalties for this discharge because the incident was "the result of a massive discharge of a toxic pollutant that could not reasonably have been anticipated by Perryville," the report stated.

MDE officials did not waive the penalties for a second incident that occurred Sept. 20, 2012, when a "black influent" with a high alkaline content came into the plant; the amount of ammonia-nitrogen being discharged spiked again.

MDE noted the plant was still violating the ammonia-nitrogen discharge limits as of May 2013, despite a total cleanup of the affected areas of the plant and the addition of bacteria to break down nutrients.

Breder said Tuesday that cold weather, beginning in the fall of 2012, delayed the regrowth of the biomass at the plant.

MDE officials determined that waiving fees for the September 2012 incident would not be "appropriate because the discharge of toxins to the Plant could have been reasonably anticipated after the March 2012 event," according to the settlement report.

Town officials had also documented that the plant exceeded its permitted limits on phosphorus discharge in 2011, for which MDE assessed penalties.

The commissioners also unanimously passed a budget amendment Tuesday to cover multiple town expenses, including the penalties due MDE.

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