Essex Junction Pays Up In Settlement Over Wastewater Spills

Jul 29, 2014

The village of Essex Junction will have to pay $22,625 in fines related to multiple unauthorized wastewater dumps last year, the state says.

According to the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Essex Junction wastewater plant wrongly released 1,954,853 gallons of un-disinfected wastewater into the Winooski River last summer.

The releases happened over two days, according to the DEC news release.

A CED [Compliance and Enforcement Division] investigation revealed that during construction activities at the facility last summer, operators moved a panel which controls the application of hypochlorite for disinfection.  On August 2, 2013, a dial on the control panel was unknowingly moved by masonry workers, causing a discharge of approximately 559,505 gallons of treated, but non-disinfected wastewater.  A facility operator later discovered the dial was set at zero and re-set it.  Facility operators discussed the issue, but did not advise the masonry workers or take any action to prevent the issue from recurring.  Before the end of the workday, the panel was hit again and not discovered until the following morning, causing a discharge of approximately 1,395,348 gallons of treated but non-disinfected wastewater.  A rigid foam panel was installed over the control panel shortly thereafter.  The village notified the Agency of Natural Resources of the August 3rd event on August 5th, but did not notify the Agency of the August 2nd event.

Essex Junction agreed to a settlement of $22,625 over the violations.

Essex wastewater officials applied a foam panel to a control box after construction workers bumped it two days in a row, resulting in the release of more than 1 million gallons of undisinfected water.
Credit Taylor Dobbs / VPR File Photo

On July 9 and 10 of this year, Essex again ran afoul of clean water regulations when more than 10,000 gallons (and as many as 100,000) of water was discharged from the facility with above normal levels of E. coli, according to a mandatory report to the state.

Essex Junction Water Quality Superintendent Jim Jutras said construction is expected to finish this summer, which should prevent similar missteps in the future.

"We're nearing the end of construction," he said, "and hopefully that issue is behind us and we can look forward to more consistent operations and reliable operations."

Updated July 30, 2014 at 11:45 a.m. to reflect comments from Jutras.