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Front Page » March 4, 2010 » Carbon County News » PRWID dodges major bullet with '09 sewer leak settlement
Published 1,511 days ago

PRWID dodges major bullet with '09 sewer leak settlement


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By GREG EICHELBERGER
Sun Advocate reporter

While not actually hearing it, one could almost detect a slight sigh of relief from members of the Price River Water Improvement District's Board of Trustees at its regular meeting on Tuesday, March 2.

The reason for the the emotion was the panel's completion of a settlement plan that had hung over the district like the Sword of Damocles ever since a sewer leak (of unknown duration) was discovered under the Price River Bridge (and Carbonville Road) on July 25, 2009.

And even though PRWID workers and HAZMAT units were on the scene quicky (the board claims no environmental damage was detected), the matter was duly reported to the Utah Water Quality Board (UWQB) - as a matter of protocol.

Months of wrangling then went by, torturous weeks in which the federal government became involved through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The leak was allegedly caused by rags backing sewage up into a corroded steel pipe which was not originally put in place by PRWID.

Evidently, the system was built in the 1970s and the portion that failed was replaced in the 1980s when the highways bridge was widened. Steel pipes, which are not supposed to be used in sewer construction (because of corrosion issues), were to blame.

In late December, the UWQB and EPA fined the district $21,857 for the leak. statements from the state organization claimed it was the "worse situation in years," but a spokesman for the board denied any short or long-lasting harm was done to the river, the area or the water table.

"We found out about the leak on Saturday, and by Monday everything was cleaned up and there was no residual sewage," said PRWID district manager Jeffrey R. Richens. "By the end of August, the line was completely repaired. That was an amazingly short time to accopmplish such a huge job."

Richens also described the leak as "a trickle," not the deluge many in some circles have painted it.

But everyone on the board admits to the potential danger the leak did posess. "This could have been a huge disaster," said member Steve Rigby. "That pipe was totally rusted out. It's a good thing we caught it when we did."

Still, even though the panel asserted it did everything it could in the situation, the settlement came as a relief. It was certainly no slap on the wrist, but "it could have cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars," added Rigby.

The fine, as it is, will also be allowed to be made in two payments, the first installment of $9,095 to be turned over within 30 days of the agreement; the second $9,095 will not be due until Jan. 31, 2011.

A Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP) in the amount of $3,667, the funds to be utilized by no more than one year from the final agreement of the settlement is also required of the district.

In addition, the district will develop and implement a Capacity Management Operation and Maintenance (CMOM) program by Dec. 31, 2012. This will include a detailed map of the PRWID's collections system, and evaluation and capacity assurance plan, an overflow emergency response plan and a fat, oil and grease control program.

Almost fearing the offer would be pulled off the table, the panel quickly approved the settlement with a 4-0 vote.

"This isn't perfect, but it's something we can live with," said board chairman Richard Tatton. "One of the most important tenants of the agreement was gettting the language changed from a 'major spill' to just a 'spill.' That may not seem like much, but to us that is a very important distinction."

Richens agreed and added, "In the long run, as difficult as things were for us during that time, this may have been a blessing in disguise. The leak pointed out to the district that we do have some problems in key areas, such as river crossings.

"We do need to constantly evaulate our critical infrastructure. Had we had the money and manpower before, we would have done so. Now, we're kind of forced into it."

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