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Quaboag Quacumquasit

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Permit Issued: Spencer Waste Water Treatment Plant

Posted June 20, 2019

After 25 years of frustration, US EPA / MA DEP have finally heard, listened to and taken action regarding treatment plant issues raised by QQLA. A new permit was issued for the Spencer Plant.

This permit took effect on May 1, 2019.

The treatment system was found to be inadequate, and MUST be upgraded. Some of these changes will impact the SWWTP immediately and other changes and upgrades will take years to com- plete. At the very least the new NPDES [National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System] permit is a SIGNIFICANT win\win for QQLA and the environment! This is a VICTORY for clean water !!

What have been the major Issues and concerns raised by QQLA ?

• Plant maximum design limit:
The maximum design capacity of the SWWTP is 1.08 Million Gallons Per Day (MGPD). The system is not supposed to operate at more than 80% of that flow more that 50% of the time.

The system has historically exceeded that flow rate on a regular basis.

• Lost water: 40 -50% of the water that enters the plant {influent} does not get fully treated before it leaves {effluent} the plant:
The SWWTP has been using wet beds technology at the plant to treat the sewerage. The wet beds are unlined and thus the water that is run into the beds leaks out of the system into the ground and makes its way to the Sevenmile River. This lost water accounts for been between 40 – 50% of the influent sewerage which enters the plant. The plant discharge limits are based on their effluent water that leaves the plant. Thus the system has been accounting for less than half of the allowed discharge limits. NOTE: bacterial testing of the Sevenmile river downstream at the Shore Rd Causeway has shown NO increased bacteria levels.
• Phosphorous discharges levels:
Phosphorous helps make plants grow (it is essentially fertilizer), thus it encourages the growth of the inva-
sive weeds and as a nutrient is a main contributor to algae blooms.
• Inflow and Infiltration (I/I), Bypass:
“Inflow and Infiltration” means that storm water enters the sewer system lines and reaches the SWWTP and is treated as raw sewerage. This is an issue: when this happens it can overload the plant capacity and cuts down on the system efficiency or function and in the worst cases means that some water (sewerage) is al- lowed to bypass the treatment system entirely.

What are the benefits of the new NPDES ?

• Plant maximum design limit:
The plant design capacity levels have come under scrutiny by US EPA and MA DEP – Though the input of the plant has exceeded the max design in the past, future levels will either have to be reduced or the plant will have to be upgraded to increase the amount of inflow it gets.
• Lost water:
With the issue of the new NPDES permit the SWWTP will have to calculate their discharge limits based on their influent flow not the effluent flow. This is an immediate win for QQLA. This means an instant daily reduction of pollutant (nitrogen and phosphorous) system discharge limits of 40-60%.
• Phosphorous discharges:
Because waste water treatment plant systems are less effective in cold weather the SWWTP was allowed to discharge pollutants at higher rate in the 7 months of winter. QQLA recommendations were for this winter discharge rate be changed from 7 months to 6 months. This was also implemented immediately and means that the system will have to run at the lower discharge limits for a month longer that previously.
• Inflow and Infiltration (I/I)
Spencer has a problem to solve here: their storm drains cross into their waste water lines. The system is old, maps and diagrams are inconclusive, and the crossover points are NOT known.

What is next for QQLA ?

Our work is NOT done. It is now incumbent upon QQLA to monitor the plant and insure that they
are complying with discharge limits. We also must monitor UPGRADES to the SWWTP plant—and that modifications are executed to insure they progress as scheduled in the permit.

Unfortunately there are no penalties or financial burdens put in place to insure that the Town of Spencer or the SWWTP deadlines and conditions are met.
— By Don Taft & Randy Weiss

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