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Thurmont officials discuss more
stringent laws for sewers

Ingrid Mezo

(8/16) Thurmont town officials Tuesday discussed revisions to the town’s sewer ordinance and focused on a growing grease problem.

Stricter laws to regulate the dumping of grease by businesses into the sewage system are among the many revisions planned for the new ordinance.

John Ford of the town’s Charter Code Review Committee said a review of the town’s sewer ordinance indicated a need to update certain provisions, strengthen prohibited substances and effluent limits, add pretreatment requirements, strengthen and enforce violator liability provisions, and minimize the town's liabilities and costs.

‘‘We really need to do a better job of specifying what people can throw into the sewer," he said.

As justification for stricter grease disposal requirements in the town, Ford offered the following list of problems grease causes to the town’s sewage system:

*Line blockages caused by grease cost the town between $500 and $3,000 every time there is an incident, and also cause potential sewage backups into people’s homes;

*Filter press belt replacements cost the town $2,000 a belt. Town Manager Rick May said that the belts squeeze the sludge, allowing the liquid portion of the sludge to go through to the filter, and the drier portion is thrown away.

*Around 150 gallons of grease must be removed from the town’s diversion structure about twice a year.

In addition, wastewater treatment plant superintendent Randy Eyler said getting a grease separator for the town to deal with the problem instead of asking businesses and residents to be more cautious would cost between $750,000 and $1.5 million.

The town’s draft of the ordinance was modeled after Frederick County’s industrial wastewater pre-treatment ordinance, Ford said. In addition, the committee got sewer and grease ordinance information from other sources, and based its study on advice from town staff. The permitting process applies to all non-residential structures.

Both old and new businesses will be required to get permits, and the permits will specify pre-treatment requirements for the businesses.

In addition, there are 17 prohibited substances that people will no longer be able to throw into the sewage system without receiving fines, Ford said. Fines for repeat violators will go up. In addition, the violator will be responsible for any damage caused to a third party, such as a homeowner who has sewage backup into his or her home, as a result of a blockage the violator caused. Extreme circumstances will allow the town to shut off the sewage system.

Commissioner Ron Terpko raised the issue that the town had experienced a motor-oil problem a few months ago, in which someone was dumping oil into the sewage system, possibly maliciously, to cause problems to the town’s sewage system.

Town water and wastewater collection superintendent Gary Dingle said the town is close to finding the violator. Commissioner Glenn Muth asked about business operations out of the residences that could potentially add to the town’s sewage problems. He mentioned that one such business had had a grease fire.

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