WTC fined, ordered to upgrade in DEP action

Waste Treatment Corporation of Warren would pay a $25,000 fine and be required to install upgrades to the plant by 2016 for violations of the Clean Streams Law into the Allegheny River, according to a proposed consent decree with the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The DEP announced the proposed consent decree with WTC on Thursday to address the impacts to the Allegheny River caused by the company’s treatment and discharge of wastewater that a 2012 DEP study found was “harming the river’s water quality and biological community.”

“As proposed, the consent decree requires Waste Treatment to submit the necessary permit application to the department for the installation of additional wastewater treatment that will achieve applicable effluent limitations, including total dissolved solids and chlorides of 500 mg/l and 250 mg/l, respectively. The additional treatment must be installed and have achieved all of the other requirements in the consent decree by January 1, 2016,” the DEP said in a press release.

The proposed consent decree must go through a 30-day public comment period before final approval from Commonwealth Court. The formal comment period will begin on Nov. 23 and end on Dec. 23. Copies of the proposed consent decree are available by contacting DEP’s Northwest Regional Office at 230 Chestnut St., Meadville, Pa 16365 or by telephone at 814-332-6942. Written comment should be submitted within the 30-day period to the same address.

Until upgrades are complete at the plant, WTC is limited to discharging 176,508 pounds a day on a monthly average and 315,624 pounds as a daily maximum of Total Dissolved Solids.

WTC will not discharge any waste from “any unconventional or shale gas wastewaters” until the plant is upgraded and operating in compliance with DEP’s standards; WTC requests in writing to accept unconventional or shale gas wastewater and the DEP notifies WTC in writing that it can process shale wastewater.

WTC will be required to verify through weekly testing submitted on a monthly basis for Total Dissolved Solids, Total Radium 226/228, Chloride and Uranium discharged into the Allegheny River.

“The proposed consent decree also requires Waste Treatment to verify, through biological surveys, that the additional treatment is successful in restoring the water quality and biological community of the Allegheny River,” the DEP said.

Waste Treatment Corporation had agreed to pay a $100,000 fine for violations of its permit and the Clean Streams Law with the DEP on Aug. 5, 2011.

The DEP found between February 2005 and May 2011 WTC had not properly tested for pollutants; installed new equipment “to update the treatment process” without authorization from the DEP; continued to operate the new equipment without a permit and had not submitted a permit application; exceeded the limits of its permit to discharge total suspended solids, titanium, arsenic, cadmium, and failed to measure pH outfall, according to a copy of the agreement.

The October 2012 DEP study determined there were high levels of salts, metals, and radioactive compounds found downstream from WTC’s discharge pipe.

Testing upstream from WTC the study found “an aquatic community typical of the upper Allegheny River” and downstream from WTC’s discharge point found “a greater proportion of pollution-tolerant groups” and the “Differences among sites can be attributed to the WTC discharge, since no other factors were observed between the upstream and downstream stations.”