by Matthew Rice
The melting snow, rain and freshly fallen snow provided trouble for more than motorists and residents tired of shoveling Monday as the waste water treatment plant experienced an overflow condition in the early morning hours.
A combination of runoff from the melt and more than an inch of rainfall combined with the water normally flowing through the system to cause the primary clarifying tanks to overflow, officials said.
“I received a high level alarm call from the alarm company and found the level was high when I got there,” waste water treatment plant operator Dan Williams said Monday morning.
The alarm system, installed following a discharge into the Mettowee River in 2009, functioned properly and Williams said he notified the state Department of Environmental Conservation to report the condition after taking actions to mitigate the overflow.
“It lasted about six hours and I can’t say it won’t happen again; yesterday was worse because all the snow was melting,” Williams said.
The system is designed to accommodate 2.5 million gallons of water per day and was well beyond that mark, he said. “There was so much water that I can’t even measure it,” he said.
Cooler temperatures have slowed the melt, and snow, instead of rain, helped reduce the amount of water moving into the village’s waste treatment system.
A combination of sump pumps and old storm water drains still attached to the waste water system only add to the problem.
Williams said it was not the kind of event that could incur a fine because no untreated waste water reached the river.
The water is untreated because it has only been through the first portion of the treatment plant where solids are allowed to settle out of the mixture; it had not yet been exposed to the plant’s bacteria.
“It was untreated waste water but (extremely) diluted by storm water,” he said.
“Luckily, the driveway is high enough to keep it contained so (the overflow) never made it to the river – it was all contained on the lawn and in the parking lot,” Williams said.
Procedures known as ‘wet weather practices’ are in place to deal with high water. The plant has a gate which reduces the amount of water coming to the plant by backing it up into the system. He can also shut off recirculation pumps, which under normal flow rates send treated water back to the start of the plant to be treated a second time.
The storm water connections to the waste water system are old and typically do not show up on maps of the drainage system. The connections are often found when crews are digging to fix water main or service line breaks and are removed as they are discovered. Draining sump pumps into the waste water system is not allowed, he said. Williams said the village has a program for working with residents who discover they have such a configuration where the village will install a line to the storm drain system as long as the homeowner will hire a plumber to make proper connections within the residence.