Village commits to fixing sewage bypass issue

WELLSVILLE – At this week’s council meeting, village Mayor Susan Haugh made addressing Wellsville’s sewage bypass problems a priority for the new year, even though she admitted a solution is likely to take far longer than 12 months.

Greg Stewart of United Water, which manages the village sewage treatment plant, briefed council on the problem of inflow and infiltration (I and I) currently plaguing the system. Stewart cited statistics showing the extent of the problem, with Buckeye Water District having sent approximately 12 million gallons of water for customer use to the village in December, averaging 375,000 gallons per day. During that same period, United Water treated 30 million gallons of sewage from Wellsville, a rate of close to 979,000 gallons each day.

The difference of more than 600,000 gallons per day is due to the inflow and infiltration of ordinary rainwater and snow melt into the wastewater treatment system. It occurs when overwhelmed storm sewers backflow into the sanitary sewer system, though some of the infiltration can come from seepage of standing water through the ground into sewer pipes.

It all flows together to the treatment plant, which itself becomes overwhelmed with the volume. The excess mixture of rainwater and raw sewage bypasses the plant and flows untreated into the Ohio River.

“That’s basically what eliminating I and I is for, to prevent future bypasses,” Stewart said. In addition to the environmental impact, he cited the great expense of the sewage treatment plant needlessly treating rainwater that flows into the system, which uses a great deal of electricity via the pump stations and within the plant itself.

Language to eliminate the problem was incorporated into the plant’s National Pollution Discharge and Elimination permit, which Stewart says expired two years ago. He says new paperwork has been sent in for review and is awaiting approval. “It’s in the EPA’s hands,” Stewart said. “We’re still working under the old permit.”

Mayor Susan Haugh says numerous meetings and phone calls with officials from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency have taken place on seeking the best solutions. “This is a problem that has progressively gotten worse over the decades, and we are now going to conquer the problem,” Haugh said. The effort will be a long-term proposition, however, with Haugh saying she hopes to see the problem fixed in a decade’s time.