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Raw sewage makes its way into Lake Mohawk
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EPA gives BTM 30 days to provide answers, superintendent says overflows a common problem
By Carol McIntire
The clock is ticking for BTM Sewer District to respond to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency regarding the discharge of untreated wastewater (sewage) into a catch basin that eventually made its way into Lake Mohawk.
The Carroll County Messenger obtained a copy of a letter, dated Sept. 22, sent to Ralph Castellucci, director of Carroll County Environmental Services, signed by Chris Moody, district representative Division of Surface Water for the Northeast District Office.
The letter noted the Division of Surface Water received complaints Sept. 19 and 20 alleging Carroll County Environmental Services pumped untreated waste water from its sanitary sewer lift station into a catch basin on West Mohawk Dr. that outfalls into an unnamed tributary to Lake Mohawk, which flows approximately 370 feet south and discharges into Lake Mohawk.
EPA conducted a comprehensive desktop compliance review of the BTM Sewer District Sept. 20 to determine the validity of the complaints and BTM’s compliance with the state’s environmental laws and regulations.
It was determined BTM committed a violation by “pumping untreated wastewater from its sanitary sewer lift station into ‘waters of the state’.”
The letter went on to explain the primary pump that served the sanitary sewer lift station failed. The secondary pump had been previously removed for maintenance. Approximately 8,000 gallons of wastewater were pumped into the catch basin to allow a pump to be installed and repairs to be made within the lift station.
EPA gave Castellucci 30 days to provide documentation of the actions taken to resolve the violation and any updated polices and procedures put in place.
Moody noted in the letter, information provided does not stop the EPA from seeking administrative or civil penalties.
Castellucci attended the Sept. 27 meeting of county commissioners, along with Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Director Tom Cottis and Health Commissioner Kelly Engelhart to discuss, the sewer pump failure.
Castellucci said there was a major pump failure that day and BTM personnel were called to work on the system.
“They ran into some issues,” Castellucci said, adding that sanitary sewer overflows are a common problem across the state due to equipment failure, line breaks and inundation of wet weather.
“The pump station was overflowing that day and we needed to mitigate the situation quickly,” he stated. “Some pumping was done into the ditch and ended up in Lake Mohawk but the situation had to be mitigated to the best available practices. It was an unfortunate incident, but it does not happen very often.”
Cottis stated the EPA was in constant contact with his agency after the agency was contacted by a private resident. He said the EPA did a case review and was satisfied with the management of the situation.
Engelhart said her department conducted testing in four different locations Sept. 21. Two samples were taken at the site of the sewage discharge, and two more samples were collected at the nearest bathing beach from the discharge. The initial samples came back elevated above the advisory level that the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) indicates which is 235 cubic fecal forming units. The testing is for fecal coliform and e coli.
Repeated testing was conducted Sept. 23 and the levels at the site of the spill were down to 60 and 80. The levels remained high at the bathing beach at levels of 840 and 1,020, which were believed to be from goose droppings at the location.
“From the Health Department’s perspective, the sewage discharge is no longer creating any issue,” Engelhart stated.
Engelhart and Cottis said they are satisfied the sewer discharge is no longer a concern for their respective departments.
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