Settlement in Sewer District Lawsuit in Upper Potomac

settlement-sewerdistrictIn August 2015, Upper Potomac Riverkeeper Brent Walls filed a Clean Water Act (CWA) complaint against the Berkeley County Public Service Sewer District for repeated violations of its water pollution control permit. The Marlowe Towne Center Waste Water Treatment Facility, part of the sewer district, had been discharging pollutants, including fecal coliform, zinc and sediment into the Falling Waters area of the Potomac River, over the past five years or more.

Last week, the sewer district agreed to hire a compliance officer and pay a $40,000 penalty.

The compliance officer’s “sole responsibility shall be to inspect the district’s facilities and focus on the district’s efforts on compliance with all of the district’s … permits.” The sewer district will also pay up to $30,000 in costs and attorney’s fees to Potomac Riverkeeper Network.

The resolution of this lawsuit will require the sewer district to notify us of all violations or upsets on a regular basis so that the public will know if the service district is adhering to their permits. We believe that having a compliance officer is a far greater of value than the fine the sewer district is required to pay. Making sure the public is aware and in the know about the water quality in their river, whether it is the Opequon (Creek) or the Potomac River, is one of our major goals.

The legal settlement comes at a time when the sewer district is moving toward completion of millions of dollars in improvements to address more stringent standards on Chesapeake Bay-related pollutant discharges, as well as operational upgrades.

The Sewer District has a history of discharge violations that have resulted in legal action. A 2006 Circuit Court ruling required the Sewer District to resolve ammonia and fecal coliform discharge violations at the Opequon/Hedgesville wastewater facility. Again in 2011, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection filed a civil action against the Sewer District for a total of 1010 violations at 11 wastewater facilities that it operates. The civil action was resolved in 2014; in which the Sewer District was fined $300,000 and required to come into compliance with those discharge permits by the end of 2015.