The Howard County Public School System has settled with the Maryland Department of the Environment over a series of violations at a wastewater treatment facility that serves Bushy Park Elementary School, in Glenwood.
On March 28, the system paid $10,500 to the state’s Clean Water Fund because the level of pollutants in wastewater flowing out of the facility and into the ground exceeded state limits.
The violations occurred from October 2008 to October 2009.
“There are limits on the characteristics of the discharge,” said Jay Apperson, a spokesman for MDE. “If you go over the limit, there are violations.”
Apperson could not say specifically what the violations were.
But Ken Roey, executive director of facilities planning and management with the schools, cited one example. Nitrogen levels in the wastewater are limited to 10 milligrams per liter, he said, but in December 2008, the level was at 13 milligrams per liter.
However, Roey said, during that time the facility was only processing an average of 4,500 gallons of wastewater a day, well under the permit limit of 11,000 gallons. So the nitrogen level, while above the liter limit, was countered by the low flow rate.
“The bottom line is that there was no negative impact to the groundwater,” Roey said. “If it had occurred over a long time and at a high level, there would have been reason for concern.”
Apperson said the school system, in addition to paying the settlement, has fixed the problems at the facility.
“The issues having to do with the violations have been addressed,” Apperson said.
Roey attributed the violations to the school system “working out the bugs” of the facility.
Operating a wastewater treatment facility, he said, is a complex process chemically and mechanically.
The facility opened in late 2006, along with the newly renovated Bushy Park Elementary School. MDE required the school to build the facility, Roey said.
Before the wastewater facility, Roey said, the school was served by a septic system, and the facility is a “significant improvement.”
The school system was notified of the violations in August 2010, Roey said, but had already taken steps to correct them.
“We’re not going to wait for MDE to issue us a letter,” Roey said. “We have our own operator, and we monitor the operations constantly. We realized we had some issues and took aggressive action to correct it.
“We were flirting on the wrong side of those limits, but in terms of overall concern to the environment, it was fairly minimal. We got it under control very quickly.”
Roey said the Bushy Park facility has not had any violations in more than a year.
“There were lessons learned,” he said.
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