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Waste water dumped in creek

February 10, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

A portion of Antietam Creek remained closed Monday after about 3.2 million gallons of "partially treated, very diluted" waste water was dumped Friday into Antietam Creek from the Hagerstown Waste Water Treatment Plant, a Washington County Health Department official said Monday.

"It's a significant amount" of waste water, said Laurie Bucher, director of the Health Department's Environmental Health Division. She said the water could be safe for swimming and fishing in a few days.

The waste "will be diluted very quickly with all the water - and the creek is up," Bucher said.

Health officials posted warnings along the creek, asking creek users to stay away, including refraining from swimming, fishing or boating, Bucher said. The area closed is between the treatment plant - about a mile north of Funkstown - to where Beaver Creek enters Antietam Creek south of Devil's Backbone Park.

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Bucher said the main concern with untreated or partially treated sewage is bacteria from fecal matter that has not been removed from the water. Users who ingest the tainted water could suffer gastro-intestinal problems including diarrhea and cramps, she said.

Levels of the bacteria fecal coliform in Antietam Creek were elevated near the plant Friday because of the release, but the levels were close to normal Sunday, said Dave Shindle, Hagerstown's Water and Sewer Department manager. Other measurements taken along the creek were not available Monday.

The plant is designed to dump the partially treated water into the creek when its flows reach 23 million gallons a day, Shindle said. Shindle said the flows are usually in the 12 million to 13 million gallons a day range, but heavy rain and a high water table has added to the stress on the sewer system.

Shindle said most of the pollutants were filtered from the partially treated water dumped into the creek Friday, although the water was not disinfected, which is the final process the city's water goes through before flowing into the creek.

Shindle said plant upgrades planned for later this year should reduce the number of times partially treated water is released into the creek. He said there were three such releases last September, and several others throughout 2003 because of heavy rainfall.

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