The Transylvania Times -

By Derek McKissock
News Editor 

Sewer Plant Fined - Brevard NC


Jay Johnston believes Brevard’s wastewater plant is a “more pressing need” than a new water plant at this time.

The city’s engineer said Oskar Blues brewery’s introduction to the system has accelerated that need.

In June, the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources fined the city $17,000 for violating the wastewater plant’s discharge permit (see below).

Johnston is in the process of drafting a different permit that will require Oskar Blues to begin a pretreatment program at its brewery off the Old Hendersonville Highway.

The 1972 federal Clean Water Act requires wastewater plant authorities, such as the city, to make high-strength wastewater users, such as Oskar Blues, pretreat their wastewater.

Johnston said the city and Oskar Blues have tried “multiple efforts” to fix the problems but to no success. The brewery began beer production at its Brevard location in December 2012.

The city, Johnston said, has previously not tried to “forcibly” make Oskar Blues put a pretreatment process in place “but instead has tried to help the beer brewer come to the realization of what is required and what is best for the environment, the community and the region.”

The city recently received an engineering report it commissioned on the wastewater plant that confirmed what Johnston and other city officials have been saying — a pretreatment of waste at Oskar Blues would get the city back in compliance.

Johnston hopes to have a pretreatment agreement with Oskar Blues in place by the end of the year.

“What we do in these actions that we are talking about must, by law, get the wastewater plant…back to compliance with our permit,” he said. “Frankly, through no fault of anybody, we will have to put a very tight limit in the permit for Oskar Blues to abide by. And even that very tight limit is probably going to just get us into compliance.”

The report also said any other high-strength wastewater user introduced to the system would need to have a pretreatment process in place, plus the city needs to upgrade the plant.

City Manager Joe Moore said they could “take on” another use similar to Oskar Blues “tomorrow” provided that user “included adequate pre-treatment as part of their process.” The city is also investing millions of dollars to upgrade its plant.

This fiscal year alone, a $10.5-million project will begin at the wastewater plant to build a large water storage area, so surges in water flow don’t overwhelm the system. It will allow wastewater to be treated at a “controlled rate,” Johnston said.

The city’s efforts on its wastewater plant, Johnston said, will take a “lot of time and money.” The county, as part of its “ongoing commitment to assist existing businesses,” County Manager Artie Wilson said, has also been working with Oskar Blues and the city.

“The county engaged a third-party engineering firm, Design South Professionals, Inc., of Anderson, S.C., to work with Oskar Blues on reviewing the results of a test trial of a process that might favorably impact Oskar Blue’s wastewater discharge and the city’s wastewater treatment plant,” Wilson said. “The cost of the study is $9,600. Both the city and county are working with Oskar Blues, so that, hopefully, future expansion can happen at this location.”

Neal Price, with Oskar Blues, was asked if the beer maker intends to expand at its location and what the current limits at the city’s wastewater plant mean to those plans.

“Oskar Blues is a rapidly growing business and will continue to need to expand, but we are going to expand where it is possible and makes business sense from an infrastructure and logistics standpoint,” Price said.

As reported in April, Oskar Blues earlier in the year spent more than $20,000 on equipment to remove biological materials from its wastewater before it gets to the city plant.

Johnston said the city wants Oskar Blues to expand, but it will require the necessary engineering plans to understand the impact it would have on the wastewater plant.

Water/Sewer Priorities

Over the past few years much of the public discussion has been about the city’s water plant and the possibility of building a new one to meet expected growth. The wastewater plant, however, has always been on the minds of city officials.

“If you increase the water plant, you have to increase the sewer plant,” Moore said. “You’ve got to do it at the same time. The front-end work on the water plant had to start sooner because we are limited in our water source. In order to change the (water plant) location, we not only needed to do some analysis on where a new location could be, but we probably had to do some permitting, specifically reclassification, of that water resource.

“The lead time on the water had to take care of a lot of basic stuff before we even got caught up with the conversation of sewer.”

Moore said city council would likely discuss the wastewater plant during its retreat, early next year.

Johnston said the wastewater plant should involve an “easier process” than the water plant.

City Fine

The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has a two-person unit called the Pretreatment Emergency Response and Collections Systems (PERCS) for all wastewater plants in the state.

By necessity, according to Jay Johnston, the city of Brevard’s engineer, the two-person unit cannot “administer and look over every place” that has a wastewater treatment plant in the state.

That authority and requirement lies with local government, Johnston said.

Johnston said PERCS has done an “excellent job” helping him craft a pretreatment plan for Brevard.

Earlier this month, PERCS approved the city’s plan.

As previously reported, the city believed all of its non-residential customers — roughly 660 — would need to be surveyed to see if they meet the requirements to need a pretreatment program.

PERCS has told the city, however, that only 20 to 30 of its commercial wastewater users will need to be looked at, saving Johnston a lot of time and effort.

The city’s recent four wastewater plant permit violations, which resulted in a $17,000 fine, include exceeding the limits for biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) and total suspended solids (TSS).

Johnston is filing a written request for mitigation or remission of the fine, explaining the circumstances and actions the city has taken.

PERCS referred comments about Brevard’s wastewater plant to Jeff Menzel, an environmental specialist with DENR’s N.C. Division of Water Resources.

Menzel said the city has had a “really great track record with us until recently, within the last year.”

“They are making improvements on their sewer collections system and looking to do improvements at the wastewater plant, as well,” he said.

Menzel said they “gauge compliance by the conditions within the permit.”

“We want to see a reduction in violations or occurrences and a commitment to making improvements in the system,” said Menzel, who noted the City of Brevard is doing all that.

The city’s proposed pretreatment program has been open for public comment from July 4 to today, Menzel said.

If there are no public comments or concerns expressed, the city will be able to move forward.

A lot of municipal wastewater plants were built 20, 30 or more years ago, Menzel said, and many are getting to the end of their “life expectancy.” Menzel said other Western North Carolina municipalities are facing similar issues to Brevard.

“It’s up to the municipalities to reinvest in these type of things,” he said. “A lot of times over the years, money will go to street lights or ball fields, and a town can find itself having to put a lot of money at one time back into the infrastructure.

“Just like anything else it gets old and wears out.”

High Strength Waste

High strength waste is determined by the concentrations of total suspended solids (TSS) and biochemical oxygen demand (BOD).

The latter is a measurement of how much oxygen is used by microorganisms that consume organic material in wastewater.

If there is too much organic material in the water, the microorganisms breathe all the oxygen before consuming all the organic material, and the water passes through the treatment plant before it’s completely treated.

In some wastewater treatment systems, fees are applied to certain users because the higher concentrations of TSS and BOD require disposal of additional solids and additional electricity is required to run blowers that feed oxygen into the water.

Wastewater treatment facilities are permitted, according to regulations that originate on the federal level, and must stay within certain TSS and BOD limits.

If a customer on the system causes the facility to violate its permit, the federal regulations provide treatment facilities with the tools and authority to compel businesses to implement pretreatment plans.

The City of Brevard Wastewater Treatment Plant is engineered to treat 300 milligrams (mg) per liter of dissolved organics.

The city can then normally treat the waste and get it below the required limit of 30 mg/liter of BOD and of TSS.

(The city’s violations have been in the range of 32 to 47 mg per liter.)

A typical household discharges, on average, between 200 and 220 mg/liter per day.

According to the city, during a six-month testing period last year, Oskar Blues’ BOD level averaged about 7,500 mg/liter.

The city said their testing also showed Oskar Blues’ could range from a low of 2,000 up to as much as 40,000 mg/liter.

It was during these higher spikes, the city said, that the wastewater system would become overwhelmed and the city would violate its permit.


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