By Jean A. Flanagan
For more than two years, sewage from a package treatment plant owned by the Hardy County Rural Development Authority in the Robert C. Byrd Industrial Park spilled into Fort Run and ultimately the South Branch Potomac River. At times, the fecal coliform and ammonia nitrogen pollution released into the tiny waterway was 10 times the amounts allowed by law.
A Consent Order issued Dec. 22, 2015, found the HCRDA in violation of the federal National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit.
In addition, the HCRDA failed to submit monthly monitoring reports, failed to notify the WV DEP of the discharge of pollutants and “failed to properly operate and maintain the system.”
“Unfortunately, the operator of the treatment plant that we had contracted with we learned was not doing his job properly,” said Mallie Combs executive director of the HCRDA. “We have a new operator at this time.”
Combs said A & S Enterprises LLC will operate the packaged plant going forward.
As a result of the violations, the HCRDA has agreed to pay the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection a $15,000 fine on a schedule of $1,250 each month “beginning March 2016 and continuing through February 2017.”
The fine was initially calculated at $53,200, but was decreased because of the HCRDA’s “ability to pay.”
According to documents received from the WV DEP, the NPDES permit was initially issued in 2007, listing only the WV Department of Highways as the Industrial User. The permit was reissued in 2012 and was modified in 2015. It will expire in 2017 unless renewed.
The 2015 modification added the West Virginia Army National Guard Moorefield Readiness Center as a second Industrial User. The modification also indicates the package treatment plant has a 20,000 gallon-per-day capacity and “no additional industrial users shall be approved for this facility.”
The permit does not list the American Woodmark facility, nor the Prime Woods facility, which are also industrial users of the treatment plant.
In addition, the permit does not take into consideration the “domestic” users of the package plant. They include the Yellowbud townhouse community, the Hardy County Day Care Center, the three office buildings and the former National Guard Armory located in the Robert C. Byrd Industrial Park.
“Domestic waste is solid waste such as garbage, trash and sanitary waste derived from households,” said Kelley Gillenwater with the WV DEP. “An industrial user would introduce non-domestic waste to a publicly owned treatment works.
“The permit only lists dischargers who introduce non-domestic wastewater into the system.”
When the regional sewer plant was constructed in 2013, it was understood the RDA package plant would be decommissioned and the industrial park users would tie into the regional sewer. That did not happen. “Tying into the regional plant may be an option in the future,” Combs said.
She did not respond when asked why it hasn’t been done.