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Town Hopes to Leave Sewage Woes in Past

By Staff | Aug 30, 2017

Pine Grove Mayor Barbara King is hoping Pine Grove’s sewage woes will soon be history.

Town workers have been installing new controllers for the sewage pits, and Mayor King said the town hasn’t been receiving as many complaints from residents, concerning raw sewage in their backyards and basements. She said one problem, that needs fixed, will most likely be fixed once workers begin the next phase of an ongoing sewage project. The town is hoping to receive funding to complete the remaining phases of the replacement of the vacuum collection system with a conventional gravity collection system.

Mayor King said the town did receive its new backwash plant for the water plant. A second pump should be delivered in approximately two weeks. Besides work on the water system, King said the town has also “corrected some things at the sewer plant.”

Mayor King said she wants to make sure the town’s systems are properly fixed. “I’d rather it take a long time and have it done right,” she said. “I want to make sure it is up and running the way it is supposed to be.”

The mayor said she has been keeping the Department of Environmental Protection updated of the situation.

The town has suffered trial after trial for months after a pump quit working on the its sewer system. Issues have plagued Mayor King, and the town’s newly-seated council members, all of which took their seats on July 1.

Help has come in several directions for the troubled town.

Dominion Energy Transmission Inc. purchased a new pump for the town.

Also, on Tuesday, Aug. 1, King announced that five members of Hurricane, W.Va.’s Mobile Infrastructure Response Team would be working on Pine Grove’s sewer system. King said the National Guard recommended she contact Hurricane for assistance.

Additionally, King announced that Mark West had personnel assisting Pine Grove workers with building controllers for the sewer pits and working at the water plant.

Besides the issues with the sewage system, a failure at the town’s water plant resulted in water leaks, which resulted in the town using water from Public Service District One. Mayor Barbara King issued the “Local Water Rationing Plan,” per PSC water rule 4.14. The town is still asking its residents to conserve water.

Meanwhile, a Department of Environmental Protection order to Pine Grove remains open for public comment until Sept. 16. The order can be accessed at www.dep.wv.gov/pio/Pages/Settlements,Ordersouttopublicnotice.aspx

This order states that on March 26, 2013, the WVDEP issued an Order to Pine Grove, which required submission of a Plan of Action on or before July 1, 2013. This Plan should have included provisions for obtaining compliance “with the interim and final effluent limitations for copper, lead, and zinc at Outlet No. 001.”

On October 20, 2016, WVDEP personnel conducted an inspection of Pine Grove’s sewage collection and treatment system for the direct discharge of treated wastewater. Several violations were observed and documented, including the following: failure to implement a program to identify and eliminate sources of inflow and infiltration; failure to perform a daily inspection of the ultraviolet disinfection facilities, which includes maintaining a written log; failure to properly operate and maintain the facility.

Of the latter mentioned violation above, it was noted that “excessive amounts of solids were in the lift station wet well adjacent to the treatment facility and behind both clarifier influent baffles; floatable solids were in both final clarifiers due to improperly functioning skimmers; 14 o the 24 ultraviolet bulbs in the disinfection system were not functioning; and a malfunction in the vacuum collection system along Alley Addition contributed to three sanitary sewer overflows of vacuum pits at that location.”

It was also noted that the town failed to report any noncompliance “which may endanger health or the environment immediately after becoming aware of the circumstances by using the designated spill alert telephone number.”

“Specifically, Pine Grove failed to make proper notification of sanitary sewer overflows on the following dates in 2016: July 18, September 27, October 3, October 6, and October 20.”

The Consent Order, from the WVDEP, states that on December 3, 2016, WVDEP personnel conducted a review of facility records from November 1, 2014 through October 31, 2016. Forty-eight exceedances of “Pine Grove’s permit parameters were observed and documented.”

According to the Order, WVDEP personnel met with representatives from Pine Grove on March 21. On April 18, Pine Grove submitted financial documents to WVDEP, which was used to perform an economic analysis to evaluate Pine Grove’s ability to pay a civil administrative penalty.

It’s since been ordered by the WVDEP that Pine Grove “immediately takes all measures to initiate compliance with all terms and conditions of its WV/NPDES permit and pertinent laws and rules.”

Within 20 days of the effective date of the Order, PIne Grove was to submit for approval a proposed plan of corrective action and schedule, “outlining action items and completion dates for how and when Pine Grove will achieve compliance wit hall terms and conditions of its WV/NPDES permit and pertinent laws and rules.”

The WVDEP’s order states that Pine Grove waives its right to appeal the Order, and the town must take all actions required by the terms and conditions of the Order. However, “Pine Grove does not admit to any factual and legal determinations made by the Director and reserves all rights and defenses available regarding liability or responsibility in any proceedings regarding PIne Grove other than proceedings..”

If any event occurs which would cause delay in the achievement of the requirements of the Order, Pine Grove was required to prove that the delay was caused by “circumstances beyond its reasonable control.”

“Violations of the terms and conditions of this Order may subject Pine Grove to additional penalties and injunctive relief.”

In the meantime, two Orders have been issued by the Public Service Commission in response to two separate complaints submitted by two separate Pine Grove residents.

In one case, before the Public Service Commission of West Virginia, a resident alleged that raw sewage was in her backyard close to a waterway. The resident requested that no raw sewage be in her backyard. The resident filed her verified formal complaint on May 2, 2017. The PSC ordered that Pine Grove do the following: isolate the vacuum pit from the surrounding field to prevent outside water from entering the pit chamber; install gaskets (o-ring) on the pit lid to seal off water from entering the pit; repair the spare control sensors to have available for emergency use in the affected areas; cross train its operators with the training provided by experienced operators/manufacturing facility, and have its operators inspect the affected areas during heavy rain events to ensure its system is working.

It was also ordered that the town prioritize and make urgent obtaining funding to complete the remaining phases of the replacement of the vacuum collection system with a conventional gravity collection system. Furthermore, the town is required to file monthly progress reports of its implementation of the five short-term Staff recommendations.

Separately, a verified formal complaint was filed May 8, 2017 regarding raw sewage in the resident’s yard. The residents requested that the sewage system be fixed “and their yard be returned to normal.”

The Complainants also requested that the sewage lines to their house be repaired.

The PSC issued an order similar to the above-mentioned PSC case, in which the town is required to isolate the vacuum pit from the surrounding field to prevent outside water entering the pit chamber, install gaskets, repair spare control sensors, cross train operators, and have operators inspect affected areas during heavy rain events. The town was also required to prioritize and make urgent obtaining funding, and the town is also required to file monthly progress reports.