On March 28, 2005, a new regulation (COMAR 26.08.10, Overflows and Bypasses) that addresses reporting and public notification about sewage overflows and bypasses became effective. The Maryland Department of the Environment (“Department” or “MDE”) has been tracking reports of overflows by owners and operators of sewage systems in the State. MDE is concerned that there are still a significant number of overflows that occur across the State. These sewage overflows adversely impact State waters and pose a risk to public health from raw or partially treated sewage containing elevated levels of bacteria and disease causing pathogens.
The Department implemented an enforcement initiative effective January 1, 2009 as a further step in its efforts to address unauthorized discharges of pollutants resulting from sanitary sewer overflows. The Department has taken numerous enforcement actions independently and jointly with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and citizen groups over the last ten years that included orders for system upgrades and penalties for unlawful discharges. These actions are intended to focus greater attention on illicit discharges and to encourage municipalities and private sewer system owners to do all they can to identify and correct problems in their systems to prevent overflows. In the past, MDE targeted those systems with numerous sewage overflows or large volume overflows for enforcement actions.
Under the enforcement initiative, MDE has begun to assess penalties for all sewage overflows, with the exception of permitted combined sewer overflows, unless the owner or operator of the system can clearly demonstrate that the overflow was beyond their control and in spite of taking all reasonable steps to properly operate, maintain and improve sewer system infrastructure. Under State and federal law, penalties for sewage overflows can range from $1,000 to $32,500 per day respectively for each overflow. The Department may also issue orders requiring improvements to prevent and eliminate sewer overflows from systems with repeated overflows from the same pump station, manhole or sewer line, large volume overflows or overflows that are due to poor system maintenance, operation or design.
Operators of sanitary sewers are reminded of their responsibility to take all appropriate steps to report all overflows, maintain records of sewage overflows and backups as provided by COMAR 26.08.10 and to operate and maintain your sewer systems and wastewater treatment plants in good condition to prevent sewage overflows and unlawful discharges to waters of the State. Failure to eliminate or report overflows will result in enforcement action by MDE through the issuance of orders and/or penalty assessments.
Click here to view MDE letter sent to operators of sanitary sewers.
If there are any questions, please contact Harry Hunsicker, Program Manager, Compliance Program, at 410-537-3510 or by email at Harry.Hunsicker@Maryland.gov.
MDE maintains an online database of reported sanitary sewer overflows, combined sewer overflows, and bypasses. See http://mde.maryland.gov/programs/water/Compliance/Pages/ReportedSewerOverflow.aspx
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