Martinsburg ordered to reach milestones complying with Chesapeake Bay restoration program
June 29, 2011
MARTINSBURG - In anticipation of wastewater treatment plant operators having to meet Chesapeake Bay restoration mandates, the Division of Water and Waste Management of West Virginia's Department of Environmental Protection has issued draft consent orders to jurisdictions in the Eastern Panhandle.
The city of Martinsburg got its draft consent order June 16 and it states quite bluntly that the city's sewer treatment plant must be in compliance with the new pollution-control requirements by "no later than the 31st day of December 2015" and lays out a set of compliance milestones that Martinsburg's plant must meet, beginning Sept. 30.
"Generally, this is a step the state is taking with wastewater treatment plants in the Chesapeake Bay watershed to help get them in compliance with the EPA requirements," Kathy Cosco, DEP chief communications officer, explained in a telephone interview Tuesday.
It does not mean Martinsburg's sewer treatment plant is in violation of its permit, she added, only in regard to the new limits EPA has put on nitrogen and phosphorus pollution.
West Virginia was charged last year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, under authority of an executive order, with developing ways to reduce nutrient, that is nitrogen and phosphorus, and sediment pollution getting into the bay via the Potomac River - one of the bay's major tributaries.
The greater, eight-county Eastern Panhandle is in the Potomac River watershed.
EPA's so-called pollution diet set new, strict limits on nutrient and sediment pollution for each of the six states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and District of Columbia.
The West Virginia DEP and other state agencies with the help of a couple outside agencies submitted the first phase of a watershed implementation plan to the EPA last year that outlines the state's strategies to get nutrient and sediment pollution down to the EPA's limits.
EPA's new requirements target wastewater treatment plants, agricultural operations and stormwater runoff.
The first milestone deadline is about three and a half months away and requires Martinsburg to "submit a progress report which identifies the actions ... taken and any additional actions that will be taken that will result in compliance with the final effluent limitations for total nitrogen and total phosphorus," according to the draft consent order.
There are incentives included in the order for Martinsburg to meet the compliance milestones, such as a fine of $200 a day for not reaching a deadline on time.
When the draft order is finalized, there will be a public comment period.
Martinsburg has been anticipating the consent order and already has taken steps to comply with the EPA's Chesapeake Bay restoration mandates, City Manager Mark Baldwin said in a telephone interview Tuesday.
"We have a facilities plan and we're gathering information to apply for funding under SB245," he said. "We've been preparing. We're ahead of the curve."
SB245 is state Senate Bill 245, which state Sen. Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson, shepherded through the last legislative session. It sets aside surplus lottery revenues for upgrading existing sewer treatment plants or constructing new plants in the Eastern Panhandle so the facilities can meet EPA's pollution diet requirements.
Applying for SB245 money is one of the milestones listed in the order.
Officials have estimated that it will cost $45 million to bring Martinsburg's sewer treatment plant in compliance with the new pollution limits.
"We haven't agreed to the consent order yet, not until we fully understand it," Baldwin pointed out. "We've submitted a letter requesting a meeting with DEP to discuss some items."
City officials want to make sure the milestones in DEP's order line up with other programs, he said. A meeting date has not yet been set.
"We expect good discussions - we just want to make sure we're on the same page," Baldwin said.