City Faces Penalty for Sludge Violations

The City of Farmington, MO, has agreed to pay a $61,566 civil penalty to settle violations of its wastewater discharge permits and the Clean Water Act related to nickel levels in sewage sludge that was applied to farms in four area counties, and ammonia levels in wastewater discharged from the city's treatment plants.

Apr 1st, 2011

The City of Farmington, MO, has agreed to pay a $61,566 civil penalty to settle violations of its wastewater discharge permits and the Clean Water Act related to nickel levels in sewage sludge that was applied to farms in four area counties, and ammonia levels in wastewater discharged from the city's treatment plants.

Farmington's violations of its National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits and the Clean Water Act were documented during a January 2009 EPA inspection, according to an administrative consent agreement filed in Kansas City, KS. EPA previously issued an administrative order for compliance on February 1, 2010, requiring actions to be taken to address the violations.

During the 2009 inspection of Farmington's East and West Wastewater Treatment Plants, a review of records noted that on 266 occasions between October 2006 and November 2008, sewage sludge from those facilities that was applied to agricultural land contained levels of nickel ranging from 59 to 791 percent above the regulatory ceiling level of 420 milligrams per kilogram, as specified by the Clean Water Act.

All told, the 266 sludge applications occurred at 29 different properties in Madison, Perry, St. Francois and St. Genevieve counties, involving more than 660 acres of agricultural land. Owners of properties that received the sludge were notified of the high levels of nickel last year by the City of Farmington's Public Works Department.

Sewage sludge that complies with federal and state standards may be very beneficial for use as fertilizer or soil conditioner. However, sludge used for those purposes must meet certain regulatory limits. It must meet ceiling limits, which establish the highest level of pollutants (such as nickel) that a single land application of sludge may contain, as well as cumulative loading limits, which establish a maximum level of pollutants that can be received at a given location without posing a significant risk to human health or the environment.

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