By Anne Hayden
GUILDERLAND — The town’s Department of Water and Wastewater Management was issued a consent order from the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation this week, and the town must pay a $500 fine, after allowing sludge from a sewer plant to drain onto the ground.
Supervisor Kenneth Runion said the problem was with equipment and not a particular town employee, and that no employee would face repercussions for the violation.
A former employee of the water and wastewater management department, who had been fired, reported the leak to the DEC several months ago. Runion said the employee’s termination was unrelated to the sludge spill.
According to the official consent order, on a weekly basis, a town employee hauls “wet digested sludge” from the Northeastern Industrial Park sewer plant, off of Route 146 in Guilderland Center, to the Nott Road Sewer Plant, for further processing.
William West, the town’s former superintendent of water and wastewater management, who retired last month, was at the helm when the leak happened, but could not be reached for comment this week. The new superintendent, Timothy McIntyre, did not have in-depth knowledge of the history of the problem.
In November, DEC staff witnessed a town employee pumping the sludge into a tanker truck, and then disconnecting the hose and allowing the matter left in the hose to seep onto the ground.
“Apparently when the employee unhooked the hose, a little bit of sludge spilled into the grass,” said Runion. “We’re not talking about a lot of sludge, maybe a gallon or so.”
The DEC investigated the matter with several site visits and, said Rick Georgeson, the spokesperson for Region 4 of the DEC., “We know of two documented occurrences.”
The incidents violated Environmental Conservation Law Article 17, which states, “It shall be unlawful to discharge pollutants to the waters of the state from any outlet or point source.”
The DEC ordered that the town pay a fine of $2,500, although it will suspend $2,000 of the fine if the town complies with a schedule of regular site inspections.
Runion said he believed the sludge was cleaned up by the Department of Water and Wastewater Management by removing the affected soil with a shovel, but Georgeson said the sewer water “was mostly liquid and seeped into the ground.”
“We are planning on putting some sort of feature on the trucks so that they will not overfill anymore,” Runion said.
The $500 to pay the fine, he said, will come out of the Water and Wastewater Management budget.