EPA Fines Utility for Dry Weather Wastewater Overflows

The City of Worcester, MA, will pay a penalty of $125,000 under a settlement with EPA for violations of the federal Clean Water Act that occurred as a result of sewage overflows from the city’s sanitary sewer collection system.

The City of Worcester, MA, will pay a penalty of $125,000 under a settlement with EPA for violations of the federal Clean Water Act that occurred as a result of sewage overflows from the city’s sanitary sewer collection system. The system has overflowed on at least 70 occasions over the past five years during dry weather.

The settlement is a step toward resolving EPA’s concerns regarding Worcester’s collection system. This action follows issuance of an EPA order last year requiring the city to initiate additional measures to stop system overflows. Most of the overflows were caused by blockages in the system, which, in large part, can be prevented by the implementation of effective fats, oils & grease controls, routine cleaning, and preventative maintenance programs. The order also required the city to assess the structural integrity of the sewer system.

Worcester’s public sewer system includes both combined and separate wastewater collection systems, serving a population of about 170,000. On more than 70 occasions over the past five years, the city’s separate sanitary wastewater collection system experienced unpermitted overflows during dry weather, releasing untreated wastewater to area lakes and streams. The overflows occurred primarily due to sewer blockages.

“EPA recognizes that the City of Worcester has begun to put substantial efforts into its sewer system to control overflows, and the proposed penalty takes those efforts into account,” said Robert Varney, EPA regional Administrator.

EPA Research Grant Targets Harmful Organisms

EPA has given the University of Washington a $600,000 grant to research a new method for detecting harmful organisms in drinking water.

Goal of the project, funded under EPA’s Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program, is to develop a faster and more sensitive way to detect and measure known and emerging microbial pathogens in drinking water. The University will work with the Seattle Biomedical Research Institute on the project.

Dr. John Scott Meschke, the principal investigator on the project, said, “The proposed research will develop a novel approach for concentration, purification, and detection of pathogens in drinking water which can be applied broadly.”

He said current drinking water tests rely on detecting “indicator” organisms such as viruses to determine the safety of drinking water since direct detection of all waterborne pathogens has been technologically and economically unfeasible.

The project will explore several new technologies that may have the potential to directly detect a broad array of waterborne pathogens.

This grant was one of 10 nationwide awarded by EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Conference to Focus on Sustainable Infrastructure

EPA and the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority have scheduled a March 21-23 conference in Atlanta on “Paying for Sustainable Water Infrastructure.”

Organizers said the meeting would bring together stakeholders from all levels of government and the private sector to explore creative methods to finance water infrastructure while reducing costs.

EPA said it would be the first national conference to address the challenge of integrating the diverse tools and strategies to pay for sustainable water infrastructure.

Meetings will focus on sustainable water infrastructure, state revolving funds and federal assistance programs, state and local innovations, and international innovations in finance, technologies, and management.

More information is available at www.payingforwater.com.

Energy Conservation and Wastewater Treatment

A new Fact Sheet on Energy Conservation developed by EPA is designed to help municipal and utility managers and operators in evaluating ways to reduce energy consumption within wastewater treatment plants. The guide discusses technical and cost information on a variety of energy management techniques and new energy efficient equipment that can be used to reduce a utility’s energy bills.

The fact sheet also includes information on ways to produce energy onsite by using solar cells, microturbines, fuel cells and effective utilization of bio-gas that can be produced in biosolids processing. In addition, several case studies of energy savings at utilities have been documented: http://epa.gov/owm/mtb/energycon_fasht_final.pdf.

EPA Publishes Water Waste Disposal Guides

EPA has published two guides designed to help water utilities dispose of toxic wastes generated during the treatment of drinking water.

A System’s Guide to the Management of Radioactive Residuals from Drinking Water Treatment Technologies was developed to provide owners and operators of drinking water systems with information on waste disposal options for radioactive residuals.

The guide provides information on the available treatment technologies for the removal of radium, uranium, and gross alpha particle activity; the residuals produced by each technology; disposal options; and the regulations governing these options. More information about this guide can be found on EPA’s Web site: www.epa.gov/safewater/radionuclides/compliancehelp.html.

A System’s Guide to the Identification and Disposal of Hazardous and Non-Hazardous Water Treatment Plant Residuals provides information for drinking water systems on the federal requirements for identifying, storing, and disposing of hazardous and non-hazardous water treatment plant wastes, such as arsenic.

More information about this guide can be found on EPA’s Web site: www.epa.gov/safewater/arsenic/compliance.html#tools.

More in Environmental