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Sewage plant violates permit

February 18, 1999|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

The Hagerstown sewage treatment plant violated its state environmental permit in January by discharging about three times the allowable amount of fecal coliform bacteria into Antietam Creek, according to City Water Pollution Control Manager Rick Thomas.

Thomas characterized the permit violation as minor and said the bacteria levels did not pose a health threat.

Maryland Department of the Environment spokesman Quentin Banks said the discharge "violates their permit, so we're concerned. But if you waded in their discharge the chances of you catching a serious illness are remote."

The amount of fecal coliform bacteria in the plant's discharge is supposed to stay below 200 geometric mean, Banks said.

Geometric mean is an estimate of the number of fecal coliform in 100 milliliters of discharge.

In January, the plant's discharge was found to have a fecal coliform count of 752 geometric mean, Banks said.

Thomas said the number would have to be in the hundreds of thousands to be a health threat.

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Banks said a higher fecal count numbers could probably be found upstream from the plant, as a result of waste from wild animals.

Fecal coliform is a bacteria found in the waste of warm-blooded animals, Banks said.

Thomas said the violation was caused in part by heavy rain that came at the same time as one of the plant's treatment tanks was being repaired.

Thomas said the problem has been fixed.

Banks said legally the city could be fined up to $10,000 per day of the violation.

Banks said a decision on whether to penalize the city probably would be made after a Department of the Environment inspector visits the plant to investigate the reason for the violation and to see what has been done to prevent it from happening again.

He said MDE officials also would pay close attention to the fecal coliform counts for February.

Thomas said because steps have been taken to prevent a violation from happening again he expected the city will not be fined by the state.

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