DEP to work with Kiski Area to fix sewage treatment plant at Mamont Elementary
By Brian C. Rittmeyer
Published: Tuesday, December 25, 2012, 11:23 p.m.
Updated: Tuesday, February 19, 2013
The state Department of Environmental Protection will work with the Kiski Area School District to fix long-running problems with the district's sewage treatment plant at Mamont Elementary School.
The district has been fined for discharges from the plant in Washington Township that exceeded allowable limits.
It is due for a new fine of more than $3,000, said John Poister, a DEP spokesman.
The plant serves only the school. Under its permit, the district is required to limit discharges of chlorine, phosphorus, ammonia, nitrogen and total suspended solids.
The district has not been able to do that, Poister said.
The plant has a long history of operational problems and discharge violations. Violation notices have been issued in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2011, Poister said.
“In this particular case, because this plant discharges into a very small stream that empties into the Beaver Run Reservoir, and because that is a primary drinking water source, we watch that discharge very carefully,” Poister said.
Chris Kerr, manager of the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County, said he is not aware of discharges from the plant having a negative effect on the reservoir or the drinking water supply.
Although Washington Township has been extending sewage service in the township and about three-fourths of the township has public sewage, no lines are in the area of the school or planned for that area, according to the township.
Sewer service to the school area would require a pump station, which would substantially raise the cost, township Supervisor Rich Gardner said.
“There's not enough population out there to support the cost of the pump station,” he said.
The school board recently approved signing an agreement with the DEP regarding the treatment plant.
Poister said the DEP will send staff from its clean water program to look at the plant, how it's operated and come up with solutions to its problems.
“We're very sympathetic here,” Poister said. “We realize Kiski Area School District's primary function is not to run a treatment plant. We want to give them the benefit of anything we can.
“We could continue to fine them, but that's not solving the problem.”
McCutcheon Enterprises operates the plant for the district.
“McCutcheon Enterprises is working closely with Kiski Area School District and their engineers in trying to reach a resolution,” McCutcheon spokesman Chad McCutcheon said in a statement.
Superintendent John Meighan said part of the problem is that the plant is oversized for the school. Put another way, it is operating under capacity and, as a result, certain substances are not being diluted enough, he said.
“An underutilized facility can be just as dangerous to the environment as an overloaded facility,” Poister said.
To try to reduce the levels of certain pollutants, such as phosphorus, the district has been using more “green” materials for cleaning the school, Meighan said.
Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4701 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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