UNION BRIDGE -- Maryland has fined the town $5,625 for pollution at its sewer plant.
"The [complaint and consent] order covers past violations and calls for actions on the part of the plant operator to prevent any future recurrence," said John Goheen, spokesman for the state Department of the Environment.
hTC Union Bridge has 30 days, from the June 19 date of the letter, to discuss options with the state. Mr. Goheen compared the fine to a "settlement offer" and said the amount is not finalized. The state would require the money to be placed in its Clean Water Fund.
Mayor Perry L. Jones Jr. said the letter details unlawful discharges of chlorine from the plant into Little Pipe Creek, which the state calls a "put and take trout stream." Mr. Goheen said the state makes every effort to protect aquatic life.
"There has not been trout in that stream since I can remember," said the mayor. "Instead of fining us, the state should allow us to use the money to upgrade the plant."
The consent order forces the town to come up with a scheduled plan of action, said John T. Maguire II, town attorney.
"On specific test dates, the state said the total residual chlorine emitted from the plant was beyond what is allowed on our permit," said Mr. Maguire. "We would like to review the tests and see how the numbers were generated."
Mr. Maguire said he planned to meet with town officials, the engineer and plant operator to develop a response.
Fred Haifley, plant operator, said the violations stemmed from controller equipment, which disinfects sludge before it leaves the plant, and all occurred before he began working here May 15.
"Within 24 hours on the job, I tuned up the dechlorinating equipment, and increased the sulfur dioxide dosage going through the system," said Mr. Haifley.
Chlorine has a toxic effect on microorganisms, he said, and is used as a disinfectant. Sulfur dioxide then reduces the chlorine to a non-detectable level.
"Since I arrived, the amount discharged has been well within the permit standards," he said. "Most drinking water has chorine residual greater than the amount leaked into the stream."
The hiring of a certified operator could help the town in the appeal process, said Mr. Goheen.
"We are buying new equipment and really trying to get things in shape here," said Mr. Haifley. "A big fine is surely no help. It is the worst thing the state could do to a small municipality."
Mr. Haifley said he plans to appeal to the state on a "humanistic, reality-oriented basis."