BALTIMORE (October 15, 2004) – The secretary of the environment has ordered the Maryland Environmental Service (MES) to take over operation of Centreville’s wastewater treatment plant.
Kendl P. Philbrick, Secretary of the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE), signed the directive earlier today after Centreville notified the department that it has terminated its contract with Miller Environmental effective 7:30 a.m. tomorrow [Saturday, Oct. 16], but has not yet identified a new operator.
The town has advertised for a new operator but the bids are not due until Friday afternoon.
“Continuity of operation at this plant is of the utmost importance,” Philbrick said. “Given the uncertainty about who will be responsible for running the new plant during its shakedown phase, the only acceptable course is for Maryland Environmental Service to run the plant until a new operator is in place.”
Philbrick said, “By taking this action, we are protecting the environment as well as the interests of the people of Centreville, and we help to ensure the successful operation of the new plant.”
The town recently completed construction of a new, 500,000 gallon-per-day wastewater treatment plant, which is now in its trial phase. During the transition from an old plant to a new treatment system, it is not unusual for problems to occur and close oversight is necessary.
Under the terms of a May 4, 2004 consent order between MDE and Centreville, the town is required to “make every reasonable effort to optimize plant performance through proper operation and maintenance of the plant.” Because the town has not identified a new operator, the secretary concluded that Centreville could not comply with that requirement.
Maryland law (§ 3-109 of the Natural Resources Article) requires the department to direct MES to take over operation of a sewage treatment facility if a municipality fails to comply with an MDE order.
A separate May 4 consent order included a moratorium on issuance of new building permits until the new wastewater treatment system is operational and the town has developed a plan to manage demand on the new plant.
Under the terms of the moratorium, the town also agreed not to approve new subdivision plats or allow new connections to its sewer system beyond those properties for which building permits have been issued.
MDE imposed the moratorium after an investigation of town records showed Centreville had continued to issue building permits and approve plats despite the fact that the existing plant is inadequate to handle the increased demand.
The moratorium will remain in effect until Centreville demonstrates to MDE that the new system has sufficient capacity to handle up to 500,000 gallons a day without signficant violations. The new plant combines biological nutrient reduction technology with spray irrigation of effluent on farmland.
The town also was required to prepare a detailed capacity management plan to ensure that future growth will not exceed the design capacity of the new plant.
The Environmental Crimes Unit of the Attorney General’s Office continues to investigate allegations of operational reporting violations at the plant lodged by a former town employee.