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Greencastle officials look for illegal dumper

July 27, 2002|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

Someone illegally dumped about 50 gallons of an oily substance into Greencastle's sewer system last week, disrupting operation of the treatment plant, Borough Manager Kenneth E. Myers said Friday.

The plant came "dangerously close" to sending partially treated water into McCauley Run but never violated its discharge permit from the Pennsylvania Department of the Environment, Myers said.

Borough officials are still looking for the culprit.

On July 17, plant operators noticed the oily substance flowing into the plant off Grant Shook Road west of Greencastle, Myers said. Independent laboratory tests identified the pollutant as a petroleum product such as hydraulic oil, fuel oil or kerosene.

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The substance killed off most of the plant's sewage-eating bacteria, he said.

Operators diverted nearly all of the oil to one of the plant's two treatment units and shut it down. The remaining treatment unit has been handling the waste generated by Greencastle's 1,700 customers since then, he said.

Operators have been using oil-absorbing "pillows" and oil-eating bacteria to clean up the mess, Myers said.

Borough employees have looked in manholes and interviewed industrial businesses trying to find a clue to the dumper, but have found no evidence, he said.

Anyone with information is asked to call the plant at 1-717-597-3225 or Myers at 1-717-597-7143.

"Our biggest concern is to alert everybody that things of this nature can't happen," he said. "It's very expensive."

Myers could not yet put a price tag on the cleanup effort, but said the dumper can be held responsible for the costs under borough law.

Dumping pollutants into the sewer system is a crime punishable by a fine of up to $300 and imprisonment for up to 30 days, he said.

In February, someone dumped chemicals into Hagerstown's sewer system causing a partial shutdown of the plant. Ed Norman, acting manager of the Frederick Street plant, said to his knowledge the source of that contaminant has not been found.

Officials from the Washington County Water and Sewer Department and Maryland Department of the Environment who investigated the Hagerstown dumping did not return phone calls Friday.

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