Joseph McIlvenny went with the flow during Monday’s deluge. He had no choice. The New Castle Sanitation Authority plant superintendent and his staff handled an incoming 35 million gallons of rain and sewage at its Mahoningtown plant. That’s a bad mix for a facility dedicated to treating wastewater. “When real heavy rains hits us, the rains dilute our wastewater,” McIlvenny said. “We can fully treat up to 18 millions gallons per day.” Ideally, properly channeled rainwater heads to the Shenango River. Treated wastewater is released into the Mahoning River. These incidents occur a few times a year. However, it forces the authority to readjust its normal operations. “When we had this last rainstorm, there was about three inches of rain, and our flows went from 6 to 9 million up to 35 million in a matter of hours,” McIlvenny said. “That really upsets your plant, too. “Try to operate your treatment plant when you have that much variation.” In a process known as blending, the rainwater bypasses the plant’s secondary treatment systems. Eventually, treated wastewater and rainwater are mixed with chlorine gas in a holding tank before being released into the Mahoning River. A directive from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will soon end the practice. “The federal guidelines are such that this process of blending is to be eliminated in the future,” said authority engineer Gerald C. Allender of Metcalf and Eddy Inc. of Erie. “When that regulation is implemented the authority will then be faced with a requirement that will revise their permit and would require them to make changes at the wastewater treatment plant in order to stop this circumvention. “This would require an extensive construction at the treatment plant if the flows could not be eliminated in the system.” To avoid the burden of additional costs, the authority will place 25 flow monitoring stations throughout the authority’s sewer collection system. “They are intended to define where the majority of the flow is coming from, allowing one to isolate the areas and then perhaps find the source,” Allender said. The total project is estimated to cost $550,000. The contract is expected to be awarded at the authority’s September meeting. The monitors will be installed by January. That’s one priority area the authority is addressing. Another involves the higher than allowed amount of solids, often associated with manufacturing, entering the treatment plant. McIlvenny said the Mahoningtown facility is designed to handle 250 parts per million. “We’ve been averaging 400 to 600 ppm and had peaks of 1,100 ppm.” The authority has a pretreatment program in which industries in its service area are inspected. McIlvenny said the authority doesn’t know where the dumping is taking place. “The sewage treatment system is a living process,” he said. “It’s all done with micro-organisms. If you get some toxic substances coming in, you’ll kill your bugs and you’re out of business.” Allender has suggested to the authority board that it purchase sampling systems to be used in conjunction with the flow monitors. “That would be a unit that would also pick up a water sample that could be looked at to determine what type of chemicals are coming from different areas of the community.” The authority has not acted on that recommendation.

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