Sewer woes plague town

November 30, 1999|By TIFFANY ARNOLD


Failures within Williamsport's sewer system caused the town's main pump to shut down Tuesday and also caused an unknown amount of raw sewage to leak Feb. 8, Mayor James G. McCleaf II said.

Town officials repaired the pump Tuesday morning, containing the sewage before it could leak, McCleaf said.

The Maryland Department of the Environment is investigating the Feb. 8 sewage leak, MDE spokesman Richard McIntire said.

McIntire said the town reported the leak to local MDE officials, who were still trying to determine how much sewage leaked.

Officials with Washington County's public works and water quality departments said they were unaware of the leak.

Bill Limpert, the MDE official whom McCleaf said was handling the incident, was unavailable for comment Tuesday.

Town officials said they did not know where the sewage went, but said it was likely that it ended up in the Potomac River.


Drinking water OK

McCleaf said the breach did not contaminate the town's drinking water, which is supplied by the City of Hagerstown.

Williamsport Councilman Jeff Cline said the current mayor and council inherited these problems.

He said the recent incidents showed that the outdated sewer system is in urgent need of repairs.

"Our infrastructure is a disaster waiting to happen," Cline said at Williamsport's council meeting Monday night.

The meeting was briefly interrupted when it was discovered that a major pipe near the elementary and high schools had collapsed Monday, causing sewage to back up underground. McCleaf said the pipe was repaired in time to prevent sewage from seeping through the ground, which would have forced schools to temporarily close.

On Feb. 10, a second pump in the town failed, but McCleaf said the pump was repaired and there was no leakage.

Williamsport's sewer troubles come amid a financial crisis. The town, which is a half-million dollars in debt, is not generating enough revenue to cover the costs of repairing old equipment.

"We're all paying double what we're used to paying and we're looking at $200,000 loss on equipment that is failing," said Ron Shifler, an auditor with Teti & Carswell, the firm reviewing the town's finances.

McCleaf said Tuesday that the town has applied for state grants and is seeking other money to fix the problem, which according to Cline's estimates, would cost $4 million to $5 million.

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