City agrees to pay penalty for summer sewage overflow

Sewage overflows can result in hefty fines.

The City of Warren is learning that lesson the hard way.

City Council approved a consent assessment with the Department of Environmental Protection on Monday that will levy a $3,500 fine against the city for two overflows that occurred last summer.

Citing one incident in both June and July, City Engineer Douglas Sceiford said that the “sewage treatment expanded (its) limits” on those occasions.

He explained that the city was then asked by DEP to draft a report of what occurred as well as what the city proposes as corrective action. DEP then responded with the consent assessment which includes a penalty.

Sceiford said that DEP originally set the “penalty for violations or exceedences” at $5,482 but, after consultation with the city, reduced the fine to $3,500.

“This is part of their program,” he said. Based on volume, over one million gallons per day, “we’re a major discharger,” he added. Sceiford noted that if the DEP did not take action, the federal Environmental Protection Agency could and their penalties are more severe.

“How did this happen?” Council Vice-president Maurice Cashman asked.

“In the summer time, we cut back on the amount of units that we’re running,” he explained, allowing the plant to run more effectively. “(We) essentially cut the plant in half. The only problem (is) a sudden, flash storm.”

One such storm in each month caused the exceedences.

As part of the “reaction to put the whole plant back in operation, you do spill out some solids. We didn’t exceed by that much, but we went over.”

Cashman asked whether these issues will continue to be a problem once the new sewage treatment plant is constructed in and in service.

“No,” Sceiford said. “One of the best corrective actions is to get the new plant back on line.”