South Hadley to avoid fine over 2019 sewage spill if it corrects deficiencies

  • An aerator tank operates at the South Hadley wastewater treatment plant on James Street in Chicopee, Sept. 9, 2020. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 9/14/2021 7:09:21 PM

SOUTH HADLEY — The state Department of Environmental Protection has agreed to suspend a $5,750 fine against South Hadley after the town’s sewage treatment system spewed some 284,000 gallons of raw sewage into the Connecticut River two years ago.

In an administrative consent decree the DEP signed with South Hadley, the agency agreed to suspend the fine in exchange for the town developing contingency plans for a similar situation in the future, making repairs to its sewer system and submitting a staffing plan to the state to meet required staffing levels at its treatment plant.

The discharge of raw sewage occurred Aug. 22, 2019, when the treatment facility operated its “emergency bypass” after a bypass pumping line ruptured while a contractor was working to replace a valve, according to the consent decree.

Neither South Hadley nor the contractor had a specialized hose needed to fix the problem. Faced with the possibility of sewage backing up into the basements of residential homes in the area, they opened the emergency bypass and sewage began to pour into the river.

The discharge ended up sending an estimated 284,000 gallons of sewage into the river. At the time, the facility was staffed with only five people — two fewer than required under DEP regulations. In its notice of noncompliance to the town, the DEP also detailed “several exceedances of E. coli in the effluent in the months of May and June of 2019 and September 2018.”

As part of the consent order with DEP, South Hadley is required to develop contingency bypass plans for all such future maintenance projects. It also agreed to make repairs to address problems with inflow and infiltration into its collection system, which results in “extraneous water being collected, transported, and treated by South Hadley.”

Those repairs are to be completed by August 2023. If the town violates any part of the agreement, the DEP can reinstate the $5,750 it has suspended against the town.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.


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