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Decades of sewer spills may be over

Richard Fulton
Emmitsburg Dispatch

(7/7) In spite of heavy rains during the last week and a half of June, changes made in the town's wastewater collection system are already paying off - no spills in spite of the persistent deluge.

When he saw that the area was to be hit with large amounts of rainfall, Town Manager David Haller asked that work be speeded up along a section of the wastewater collection system being replaced through the Waybright property to the treatment plant.

Even though the treatment plant was subsequently hit with as much as 1.9 million gallons in one day, the new line held and the town got through its first major storms without a sewage spill.

New line held despite storms

Although still compiling data from the more than a week of storms, Haller said, that on Sunday, June 25 alone, the plant processed 1.9 million gallons of predominantly "wild water," well over the plant's permitted 800-gallon-per-day capacity.

During the day, rainfall amounts ranged from 2.5 inches at the treatment plant to 5 inches at the water treatment plant, according to Haller.

Before the storm front arrived on Friday, June 23, Haller had already directed the construction crew working on the line and sewer plant upgrade to cut the flow of sewage to a temporary by-pass line and let it go through a new replacement line.

A by-pass line had been installed so that workers could replace a section of the old line that crosses the Waybright property off Creamery Road, the source of sewage spills going back decades.

Dealing with potential 'wastewater geysers'

The main problem along the Waybright section of the line was a missing valve which either never installed in a vault in the 1980s when the system was constructed, or had been subsequently removed.

Haller had stated he felt that replacing this section of the line would remedy 90 percent or more of the town's sewage spills. He chose to have an all-pressure line from the town to the plant, eliminating the gravity-fed section, and the need for a valve.

To prevent wastewater geysers erupting at the treatment plant because of the pressurized line, Haller had the wastewater routed to the bottom of a partially filled tank. The water already standing in the tank counteracts the force of the pressurized wastewater coming into it and disperses the energy.

Haller said he expects the work on the system overhaul, including treatment plant alterations, to be completed in 30-90 days, depending on system testing.

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