Penn. DEP fines municipal authority for pollution incident

The Pennsylvania DEP has fined the Ulysses Municipal Authority in Potter County $3,450 after the authority's certified sewage treatment plant operator was found to have improperly measured the chlorine levels discharged from the facility in September. According to DEP's Northcentral Regional Director Robert Yowell, the error, which caused significant harm to downstream aquatic life, was avoidable. The fine will be paid to the Pennsylvania Clean Water Fund...

• Operator error significantly harmed aquatic life in Genesee River tributary

WILLIAMSPORT, PA, April 1, 2008 -- The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has fined the Ulysses Municipal Authority in Potter County $3,450 after the authority's certified sewage treatment plant operator was found to have improperly measured the chlorine levels discharged from the facility in September.

According to DEP's Northcentral Regional Director Robert Yowell, the error, which caused significant harm to downstream aquatic life, was avoidable.

"This pollution would never have occurred if the sewage treatment plant operator had been more aware of his improper actions," said Yowell.

During a DEP inspection in September, the chlorine levels found in the treatment plant's discharge were nine times the level allowed by the facility's permit. The effluent enters a tributary to the Genesee River.

Further investigation by the department found that the operator had been using a free chlorine test instead of measuring the total amount of chlorine in the plant's discharge.

Standard sampling protocol requires that a total chlorine test be used. Measuring free chlorine, as the operator was found to have done, only provides a fractional account of how much chlorine is contained in the effluent. Total chlorine is always greater than free chlorine.

Because the free chlorine test was used, the operator added significantly more chlorine to the treatment plant's discharge than needed, causing pollution in the stream and causing the authority greater expense than necessary.

A study of the tributary done by a DEP biologist more than a month after the incident revealed significant damage to all aquatic life for a stretch of about 250 yards downstream of the plant's discharge.

The fine will be paid to the Pennsylvania Clean Water Fund, which is used to help pay for cleanups across the state.

For more information on water quality, visit www.depweb.state.pa.us, keyword: Water Quality.

Also see:
-- "DEP fines Sitarik Contracting for violating permit provisions, clean streams law"
-- "DEP orders Wayne Township to implement sewage plan, address malfunctioning septic systems"
-- "Governor Rendell calls for action on NYC reservoir releases to better protect downstream communities"
-- "DEP recognizes wellhead protection efforts in Honey Brook, Chester County"

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