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Work continues on sewer problem

February 20, 2002

Work continues on sewer problem



By SCOTT BUTKI
scottb@herald-mail.com


Work continued Saturday on restoring full operations at Hagerstown's sewer plant and finding the unknown polluter that caused the plant's partial shutdown on Feb. 9, said City Water Pollution Control Department Manager Rick Thomas.

"Everything is going well," he said.

He did not know when the work would be completed, or if the source of the pollutant will ever be found.

Hagerstown and Maryland Department of the Environment officials have been looking for the source on a contaminant that killed microbes essential to the waste water treatment process. The MDE has asked that anyone who saw suspicious activity or dumping into the Hagerstown sewer system call 301-739-8068.

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.

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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 had flowed from the Hagerstown plant since Saturday.

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.

On Tuesday the plant was temporarily switched to a chlorine disinfection process, which kills most bacteria and has essentially ended the flow of contaminated waste water into the creek.

Plant Superintendent Donald Barton has 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, Barton said.

Maryland environment officials have inspected wildlife on the creek and found no ill effects from the contaminated waste water, a spokesman said.

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