ST. MICHAELS — The Talbot County Sanitary District on Thursday, July 25, confirmed a sewer spill associated with the disconnection of a sewer line serving four houses on Radcliffe Avenue.
After conducting an investigation into the discharge of the wastewater, it was determine the disconnection of the sewer lateral occurred on Feb. 28. A contractor, working on behalf of the Talbot County Sanitary District, replaced a section of the sanitary sewer force main and failed to reconnect an active sewer lateral to the force main.
Further investigation of the discharge indicated the wastewater from the unconnected lateral flowed into an adjacent storm drain before being discharged into a roadside grass-lined drainage way along Radcliffe and Seymour avenues. During rain events, stormwater was contaminated with this untreated wastewater.
“We heard there were sewer smells,” Talbot County Engineer Ray Clarke said. “One of the property owners, Jerry Harrison, said to someone that he felt like that the problem started when the contractor, Mobile Direct and Video Pipe Services, did work.”
Clarke confirmed when the department returned to the location last week, there was a heavier smell of sewage and they investigated further.
When they dug it up, Clarke said, they realized there were two pipes and the contractor that was doing the work for the department apparently did not realize there were two pipes there.
“I guess they saw the one pipe and fixed the wrong pipe,” Clarke said.
Harrison noticed the terrible smell when one day in church, someone approached him and said there must be raw sewage in his ditch.
“I hadn’t looked out there,” Harrison said. “I did go and noticed that there was water in the ditch. And after knowing how that ditch dries up in the summer, I got involved with people in sewer and water.
Harrison said on the second call with the health department, someone put him in touch with environmentalist Bill Schmidt, who got the ball rolling to fix the problem immediately.
When Harrison’s wife, Kay, noticed the smell and found out the problem, she did not “want her grandchildren to come and go around it. It was a health concern, it was full of mosquitoes and larva. Bill Schmidt said (mosquitoes) feed on the bacteria,” Harrison said.
In reviewing the discharge monitoring reports at the Region II Wastewater Treatment Plant, it rained approximately 62 days out of the 146 days the wastewater was lost from the sewer system. During these events, stormwater in this area came in contact with the untreated wastewater, which ultimately made its way through 1,500 linear feet of roadside drainage before being discharged into the Miles River.
Once discovered, all evidence of the sewer discharge was eliminated immediately from the storm drain and drainage ditches through the use of a local licensed liquid waste hauler. Lime was applied to all impacted drainage ditches within 24 hours of notification of the spill.
The Talbot County Sanitary District uses a flow rate per house of 125 gallons per day. With four houses being connected to the sewer line, it is estimated up to 500 gallons per day of wastewater was discharged from the houses.
Over a period of 146 days, the Talbot County Sanitary District is estimating up to 73,000 gallons flowed from the four houses.
Bridges Site and Utilities responded and is working to replace the sewer line and re-establish wastewater flow for the four residences impacted by the interruption in sewer service.
“Bridges Site and Utilities right now has made a temporary connection into the main line,” Clarke said. “What now happens, unfortunately, the four houses are connected to a sewer line that is below the line that they installed. So what we are doing now is we have actually have that new line that was installed back on Feb. 28. We now have those houses connected in that line on a temporary basis, but we are going to have to run a new line back to those houses. So that is going to be done Monday, July 29.”
The Talbot County Health Department’s Office of Environmental Health assisted with the investigation of the discharge and, after consulting with representatives from the Maryland Department of the Environment, determined there was no immediate public health threat associated with the discharge.
“I’m happy it is going to be done and that I found out about it as soon as I did,” Harrison said.
If the public has any questions regarding the public health determination, they may contact Anne Morse, director of environmental health, at 410-770-6880 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday or after hours by calling the Talbot County Operations Center at 410-822-0095. The operations center will contact the environmental health specialist on call.
If the public has questions regarding the discharge or the corrective action that was taken, they may call Clarke at 410-770- 8170.