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Emmitsburg Suffers Raw Sewage Spill

Chris Patterson
Gazette Staff Writer

Jan 9, 2003

Town Manager Dave Haller said Monday that the town of Emmitsburg suffered a major raw sewage spill last month, dumping about 1 million gallons of sewage.

The spill occurred on Saturday, Dec. 11, according to Haller, and happened on the east side of Rt. 15 at the force main pressure break facility.

Haller said there was an exceptional level of wild water in the system that day, causing the delivery system to switch to high speed and resulting in an overflow through the manhole next to Toms Creek.

Wild water is runoff from rain or melting ice and snow.

The amount of wild water in Emmitsburg's drainage system substantively exceeds the amount of water actually used by the town, but because it is in the system it is automatically treated at the sewage treatment facility.

It was only a few months ago that Haller talked to the commissioners about the problems the town was experiencing with the system treating so much wild water. And the problem has been magnified by the recent high rates of snow and rain.

In December, for example, the town used only an average of 239,000 gallons of water per day, but because of the wild water, 788,600 gallons of water were treated on average, per day at the plant.

Hoover said the town has not spent more than a few thousand dollars on clean up of the spill to date, but does not yet know if the Maryland Department of the Environment will impose a penalty on the town. That matter is still pending, he said.

For the time being, the town has deposited lime on the ground in the area of the spill and is testing the water up to about a half-mile downstream. He said signs have also been placed along the stream warning people of the higher rate of fecal matter present in the water. 

Some mildly good news did come from the event, however.

Because the incident occurred due to an onslaught of wild water, the sewage that did overflow was drastically diluted, reducing the adverse effect of the spill, Hoover said.

In another related matter, commissioners approved a repair to a portion of the town's sewer line that will cost in the neighborhood of $250,000. The repair has been planned for nearly two years.

Haller said the town likely will get a subsidized loan from the government for the repair. The estimated interest rate will be less than 3 percent, he said.

Commission President Pat Boyle said he thought the repair had to be a priority because of the potential health hazard and moved to approve proceeding with the repair.

Mayor Jim Hoover said he would prefer the town get grant money and indicated that Congressman Roscoe Bartlett (R-6) of Buckeystown is looking into getting a grant for the work.

In another bit of good news/bad news for the town, a successful test run of the town's new water treatment plant was conducted Dec. 9. The timing couldn't have been better because the water clarifier in the old plant failed and the plant was shut down just as the new year rolled in.

Read other news stories related to the Emmitsburg Town Government