UNION BRIDGE — A private contractor here, who said his employee was responsible foran accidental discharge of sludge into Little Pipe Creek, has paid a$2,000 fine to the Maryland Department of the Environment.
The department discovered the March 1 discharge during a routine inspection.
Joseph Kreimer, a resident here whose company manages the town's water treatment plant, paid the fine June 26.
Sludge, the treated byproduct of sewage treatment plants, was discharged into the creek by a new employee of Kreimer Construction Co. The man was unfamiliar with the plant operation, said Kreimer, who manages the plant and oversees its operation two hours a day.
The employee misdirected sludge from the intake chamber to a pipeline leading to the creek, said Kreimer.
"While cleaning the chlorine contact chamber, the employee pumped scum to the effluent," he said. "Rather than raise a stink, I decided not to contest the state. I paid the fine, since it was a mistake made by one of my employees."
Kreimer said the "relatively small amount" of discharged sludge was picked up by rocks around the West Locust Street plant.
"It never actually reached the creek wateritself," he said.
The department ordered the town to remove any excess sludge from the plant and take corrective actions to prevent future washouts into the creek, said John Goheen, a spokesman for MDE.
"The small amount released would not have much environmental impact," he said. "It was a human error, and they explained how it happened and why."
In addition to Kreimer's fine, the state also requireda letter from the town, detailing plans to prevent any further accidents.
Kreimer informed Mayor Perry L. Jones Jr., who was then council president, of the accident as soon as it happened.
Jones said he was satisfied the accident had been handled properly.
"We are looking into any necessary repairs at the plant and are considering hiring a full-time manager," said the mayor. "We discussed the money for the position at our spring budget session."
Officials of this town of 966 residents met recently with Douglas Abbott of the Maryland Center for Environmental Training, an agency which offers technical assistance to municipalities.
Abbott said he plans to help the townformulate a job description for a full-time plant manager. He also will help review any resumes for technical content.
"We are in the very beginning stages now," said Abbott. "I hope to meet with the council at its next session."
The small plant has the capacity to handle up to 200,000 gallons a day. It usually processes about 75,000 gallons daily, said Goheen.
Kreimer monitors the daily discharge andfurnishes the state with monthly reports. The state also periodically sends inspectors to all area plants.
Kreimer, who has had the job for 12 years, said the position now requires more time than he can commit to it.
"I asked the town nearly a year ago to consider hiring a full-time manager," he said.