TX - Sewage troubles plague Amador

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TX - Sewage troubles plague Amador The Record

CAMANCHE -- State water-quality control authorities have put Amador County officials on notice regarding continuing problems at the Camanche Village sewer-treatment plant.

The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board this week told the county it could be subject to a fine if the problems persist.

The board last month adopted waste-discharge requirements and a cease-and-desist order for the plant, which has discharged either raw sewage or treated effluent to nearby surface waters four of the past five years.

The county also has violated various requirements by operating with an undersized storage pond, spraying excessive amounts of reclaimed water on its sprayfield and failing to remove sludge from a pond on a timely basis.

According to a control-board report, lift-station overflows have triggered the raw sewage spills. Treated wastewater, meanwhile, has been discharged from both irrigation runoff and from storage reservoir overflows.

The regional board last month adopted an order that contains specific timetables for improvements needed at the treatment plant. The order also requires the county to immediately stop discharging sewage to surface waterways.

In a letter sent to the county this week, regional board official Wendy Wyels said the county had violated waste-discharge requirements for two incidents that occurred within the past three weeks.

On Jan. 26, sewage overflowed from a Camanche sewer-lift station for about two hours, leaving about 100 gallons of sewage to percolate into the surrounding soils. A faulty lift-station mechanism caused the problem. It was replaced the next day.

Ten days before that, a wastewater-irrigation line broke due to freezing temperatures and wastewater from the broken line discharged into a stormwater ditch.

That spill lasted for about an hour and officials estimated about 2,400 gallons of sewage percolated into the soil before reaching any nearby waterways.

Wyels told the county that if it failed to comply with its waste-discharge requirements and cease-and-desist order, the board could take further enforcement action -- and that includes levying a fine.

Rod Schuler, the county's public-works director, said the county is concerned about the problems but added that the Camanche system is an old one and susceptible to mechanical breakdowns.

"We're trying to get a better handle on getting things fixed," he said. "We have to pay closer attention to the kinds of things that can happen."

Long-term repairs likely will prove costly, Schuler said, and the county must find ways to fund them. That could require a combination of grants and loans, connection fee increases and perhaps monthly service-fee increases, he said.


-- Doris (nocents@bellsouth.net), February 10, 2001

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