Sewer operations improving

February 15, 2002

Sewer operations improving


The Hagerstown sewage treatment plant was operating at about 70 percent of pre-shutdown levels, and could be back to normal within 10 days, Plant Superintendent Donald Barton said Thursday.

Meanwhile the City of Brunswick in Frederick County, Md., which operates the closest down-river water plant, started taking in water from the Potomac River again Thursday morning. Brunswick stopped taking in river water at 6 p.m. Tuesday to avoid bringing in any contaminants from the more than 25 million gallons of partially treated waste water that has flowed from the Hagerstown plant since Saturday.

Waste water from the Hagerstown plant off Frederick Street goes into Antietam Creek, which flows into the Potomac River south of Sharpsburg. The City of Hagerstown's water plant is up-river at Williamsport.

The Brunswick water plant was the only plant along the river that shut down because of the waste water coming from the Hagerstown, Maryland Department of the Environment spokesman Richard McIntire said.


Brunswick City Administrator David Dunn said the shutdown was done "as a precaution."

"We never saw any evidence of a spill," he said.

Any contaminants from Hagerstown are expected to be greatly diluted and almost undetectable down river, McIntire said.

"If anything turns up it will be trace amounts that will probably be less than what we treat anyway," Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission spokeswoman Liz Kalinowski said. The commission, which draws from the river in Potomac, Md., has almost 1.6 million water customers in Prince George's and Montgomery counties.

Hagerstown and MDE officials don't know the source of the chemicals that prompted the partial plant shutdown Saturday. The MDE has asked that anyone who saw suspicious activity or dumping into the Hagerstown sewer system call 301-739-8068.

The city plant was partially shut down after the sewage-eating bacteria that make waste water more treatable were killed by toluene, xylene and ethylbenzene, which are common chemicals in plastics, insecticides, paint and other manufacturing products.

The screening and settling steps of the treatment process, which remove solid material such as sludge, continued running. But the ozone disinfection and bacteria treatments of the waste water were shut down.

The plant Tuesday began using a chlorine disinfection process, which kills most bacteria and has essentially ended the flow of contaminated waste water into the creek, McIntire said.

Barton said that while treatment improves each day, the plant won't be back to 100 percent until the ozone disinfection is back on-line and the sewage-eating bacteria is back to full strength.

New sewage-eating bacteria, which breaks down complex bacteria and other chemicals, is growing at the plant and is treating some sewage, but not as much as it would when fully healthy, Barton said.

MDE officials have inspected wildlife on the creek and found no ill effects from the contaminated waste water, McIntire said.

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