- The Washington Times - Monday, February 11, 2002

HAGERSTOWN, Md. Hagerstown's municipal sewage-treatment plant was was not entirely functional last night, but environmental officials say it may be midweek before the sewage it continually dumps into the Potomac River is fully treated.
The Potomac is a major source of drinking water for much of the region, including the District.
Officials say the polluted water would be diluted by the time it reached the metropolitan area and poses no threat.
Plant operators are borrowing treated sewage called sludge from another plant in Washington County to help get the Hagerstown plant back online.
By mixing Hagerstown's sewage with the treated sludge and its bacteria-eating microbes, operators hope to get their treatment process going again.
Meanwhile, 5.7 million gallons of untreated raw sewage continue to flow through the plant into Antietam Creek, which flows into the Potomac River.
The plant's treatment process failed late Friday when an unknown chemical got into the plant and killed the microbes used to treat the sewage, according to Rich McIntire, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of the Environment.
"Hopefully what we'll see is plant sewage going from 100 percent untreated to 100 percent treated, but it's a gradual process," Mr. McIntire said.
State officials notified other water-intake plants downstream from Hagerstown, which were taking steps to protect their water supplies, Mr. McIntire said. He added that signs warning of the danger would be posted near the river.
The sewage-treatment system was corrupted by an unknown chemical that killed the microbes treating the water, said Rick Thomas, manager of Hagerstown's Water Pollution Control Department.
"We have a biological system here, with microbes that do the work of treating sewage," he said. "The microbes cannot withstand the toxins from the chemicals."
Workers were trying to determine the type of chemical that got into the system and the source, Mr. Thomas said.
'We've been collecting samples all day, and we'll be sending them to a private lab Monday for analysis," he said.
There is no immediate threat to public health and little risk of people having contact with river water in February, because of the generally cold conditions, Mr. Thomas said.
The only solution, officials said, is to let the system flush itself out and allow the microbes to replenish themselves.
"At this point, there's no choice but to wait and let things run their course," Mr. Thomas said.
He said crews were working yesterday to monitor progress and to work further to determine the source of the chemical leak.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide