Press Release

BALTIMORE (April 23, 2004) – Since early April, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) has been working with the new operator of the Centerville wastewater treatment plant to improve the operation of the plant. MDE has also conducted tests of effluent from the plant.

According to the tests, conducted over the last two weeks, pH, fecal coliform and dissolved oxygen are at safe levels. Fecal coliform is particularly important as it is an indicator of potential contamination by human pathogens.

Chlorine has fluctuated between acceptable and moderately high levels, but MDE inspectors and plant operators believe they have identified the problem and that it can be solved. Chlorine is used as a disinfectant and high levels present some risk to fish health.

Total suspended solids and biochemical oxygen demand exceeded the permit limits but were within the interim performance standards outlined in a 2001 consent order devised to provide operational guidelines for the existing plant while the town’s new wastewater facility is being constructed. Total suspended solids and biochemical oxygen demand affect water clarity and instream oxygen levels, respectively.

Phosphorus exceeded both the permit and interim standards. High levels of phosphorus have been a recurring problem at the Centreville plant and MDE has fined the town four times for phosphorus exceedances. Phosphorus is a major plant nutrient and contributes to algae blooms.

For more than two months, the Environmental Crimes Unit of the Attorney General’s Office has been investigating allegations of an illegal bypass and non-reporting of significant sewage spills at the plant lodged by a former town employee. MDE compliance officers have been at the plant nearly daily since April 13.

The samples were taken on April 12, April 13, April 20 and April 23. Staff from MDE’s Technical and Regulatory Services Administration will begin conducting a detailed assessment of the Corsica River next week.

Centreville WWTP Sampling Results Summary (.pdf)