The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responding to the inquiry — “Why is the EPA not doing anything (as far as enforcement actions) if the city has been out of compliance for so long?”
EPA responded, “Ohio EPA acknowledges the frustrations of the community. Respectfully, our Agency does not agree with the assessment that Ohio EPA ‘isn’t doing anything.’ Ohio EPA has discretion when it comes to enforcement. Since the Agency’s first goal is always compliance, our staff works closely with facilities and municipalities to help them comply with the terms of their permits and with state and federal rules and regulations. Often, compliance can be achieved by utilizing a cooperative approach, but if need be, Ohio EPA always has the option of going the more lengthy legal route of formal enforcement referrals (which sometimes involve the Ohio Attorney General and sometimes result in civil penalties). There are different types of “enforcement.” Ohio EPA considers notice of violation (NOV) letters to be one type of enforcement action. Ohio EPA just sent the city of Portsmouth one such NOV last week…”
The response goes on to say, “Typically, administrative violations don’t trigger escalated enforcement action unless there are many such violations or if the administrative violations are accompanied by multiple or severe effluent (discharge) violations (i.e. water pollution). Ohio EPA recognizes that Portsmouth is showing signs of progress in returning to compliance (i.e. operator requirements). Still, Ohio EPA staff continue to press the city toward attaining and maintaining full compliance.”
In a letter to Portsmouth Mayor Jane Murray, Michael Yandrich, district representative, Division of Surface Water, said on Feb. 17, he and Scott Foster conducted a compliance inspection at the city of Portsmouth’s Lawson Run Wastewater Treatment Plant. At that inspection, Yandrich said Ernie Stickler, Tommy Stewart and Jeff Peck represented the city and accompanied them through the plant and lab as they evaluated the Lawson Run Wastewater Treatment Plant’s compliance with the Ohio Water Pollution Control Act.
Yandrich said during the inspection several violations were noted including a violation dealing with the need for a Class 4 operator on duty 40 hours and five days a week; since the firing of Rick Duncan as the director of the Wastewater Plant, that facility has been out of compliance.
“The lack of citation of this violation was an oversight during previous inspections,” the letter said.
The letter also notes that the city should aggressively continue to pursue the hiring of a Class 4 operator for the plant, and warns — “Continued violations may result in penalties of up to $10,000 per violation per day.”
“We actually have three qualified Class 4 operators, two of them we have interviewed,” Peck said Tuesday when asked about progress being made to deal with the staffing problem. “We also have an employee at the Sciotoville plant that is a Class 3 operator, and has submitted his paperwork to sit for the Class 4. This would put him at the same as Rick Duncan.”
Duncan was a Class 3 operator as director of the facility, and was granted an exemption pending his working toward his Class 4 certification.
Another issue deals with the Sanitary Sewer Overflows, which the report says continue to be reported and observed at the Munns Run pump station. The permit specifically prohibits SSOs, and again the statement carries a warning of possible penalties of up to $10,000 per violation per day.
Other problems involved the back-up power supply, sampling, and issues such as lab thermometers being out of calibration by at least one year, as well as several other recommendations that needed to be complied with.
FRANK LEWIS can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 232 or firstname.lastname@example.org