Marlinton Awarded Large Grant to Help Fix Storm Water/Sewerage Problems
West Virginia Governor Jim Justice came to Marlinton in early November and awarded that town a very large mitigation grant. We spoke to Mayor Sam Felton about this award.
You just got this tremendous award from the Governor of grant money?
“Yes,” said Felton.
Can we talk about that?
“Let me look at it again, eight million…six hundred fifty-five thousand and forty dollars ($8,655,040.) Significant! Now I could whine because I applied for ten (million dollars,) but you know what? I believe you said a moment ago, 86% is maybe not bad, so I’ll take that.”
“We just had issues that we could not overcome without cash. This does temper the one hundred and forty-eight thousand, three hundred and eighty dollar fine ($148,380) that DEP has been requesting that we pay. Now we can see some light at the end of the tunnel. This is primarily the mitigation funding that we submitted for a year ago. Mostly this will be applied to the storm water aspect.”
“The biggest problem is we are in a river bottom. Probably 80% of the downtown area, or more, is actually eighty plus years old. We gather groundwater, particularly in wet weather times, we gather probably four times the amount of water that our MPDES permit allows us to discharge at the other end. So, separating the storm water from the sewer (water) will just make it easier to comply when it gets down to the sewer treatment plant. So, this just means that real work probably is going to start (chuckles.)”
What was the fine for?
“Well, in 1972 the Clean Water Act says that what goes into the lagoon has to be reduced -the contaminates- by 85%. And, we start out with probably the cleanest water in the East (Coast.) So there’s a point where we just cannot reduce the contaminates by 85%. It’s just not biologically or chemically possible. But, every time we are in violation of that, it’s a violation. Our permit for the outflow at the sewer treatment plant allows for two-hundred thousand gallons per day, and in a wet weather scenario, we can approach six or seven or eight thousand gallons a day. But we also know that a one-inch rainfall event in a few hours creates a hundred and ninety-eight thousand gallons on the surface of our four and a half-five-acre ponds that we have at the lagoon. So, literally, we have too much clean water.”
“Marlinton is the oldest continuous settlement West of the Alleghenies, so in about 1915, we started putting in these systems that have outlived what most of the people probably thought when they put them in the ground. These lagoons that we refer to – the settling ponds- were liquor ponds originally for the International Shoe Company. The town was able to utilize them in the 2960’s when the tannery was moving out for this type of sewer treatment plant. The natural elements in our environment are part of the process that we use to break down the sewerage. It serves us well, all the way to this time. Because when they were first put into service, groundwater was no issue. In the old days ‘dilution was the solution to pollution,’ OK? More water was a good thing. But now with the tightening of the National Discharge Elimination System -NPDES- permits, it doesn’t work that way anymore. They give you an amount of discharge based upon community population and the like, and that’s what they want you to do. There is not enough tolerance to satisfy the groundwater that comes in.”
“I had hoped we would be able to apply new technology to the lagoons and use them as long as we possibly can, but the EPA is continuing to tighten the requirements even more. And so, our engineers have finally agreed – or gave in maybe you can say- so far as no lagoon technology will do what DEP is currently asking us to do. So, at some point in time we will be talking about a mechanical or a biological plant of some kind or the other. But that’s going to be several years down the road in all reality.”
“What we received here today will enable us to separate the storm water from the sewer water, because that by itself will make a tremendous difference. This starts us down the road to that part of the fix anyway – the separation of the groundwater from the sewerage treatment.”