Sewerage in the Shenendoah and Chesapeake Bay

The other end of the the water problem continues as well.

A group of environmental advocates is suing Virginia over a decision it says allows a sewage plant to continue polluting waters that flow into the Potomac and Chesapeake Bay.
The discharge from the North Fork Modular Reclamation and Reuse Facility was considered so harmful that a Rockingham County judge in February deemed it “a substantial threat to public health and the environment” and ordered the owner to install millions of dollars’ worth of new control measures.

But the commonwealth has now abandoned those mandates, said Shenandoah Riverkeeper and Potomac Riverkeeper, the nonprofit groups that first filed suit last year against the plant’s owners.

Since the owner, S.I.L. Clean Water LLC, went bankrupt, the Shenandoah Valley town of Broadway inherited the plant. Virginia then brokered a consent order with the town that sets a much slower schedule for cleanup, the groups said Friday.

The continuing discharge includes nitrogen and phosphorus — both linked to the Bay’s “dead zones” — that flow into the Shenandoah North Fork, which flows eastward.

The Environmental Protection Agency has also objected to the terms of the order, which allows the town more than three years to bring the plant into compliance.

“I’m very disappointed in how this was done,” Shenandoah Riverkeeper official Jeff Kelble said.

It’s an ironic fight, considering that the commonwealth had joined the environmental groups in suing the plant’s private owners. Now, the former allies will square off in the same court over the consent order.

Bill Hayden, spokesman for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, said the agreement will “allow time for the town to bring its systems up to standards.”

Broadway Town Manager Kyle O’Brien called the new lawsuit counterproductive, arguing it shifts the focus from cleaning up the discharge to fighting a court battle.

“One of the key things that we have to remember here is we’re walking into this plant that has been nonfunctioning for the last eight years,” he said. “Nobody … can walk in the next day and wave a magic wand and bring this plant into compliance.”

The plant serves nearby towns and two major chicken slaughterhouses.

Eight years of dumping is a long time, public or private. And compliance probably will take longer than expected. How common is this problem that is rarely reported with a clarion call of “iiiiiiick”?