As you may know, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) and the Town of Capon Bridge recently reached a settlement, called a consent decree, for the ongoing lawsuit regarding WVDEP’s allegations that the Town repeatedly violated the State’s Water Pollution Control Act through discharges from its wastewater treatment plant into the Cacapon River.
While the consent decree does not stipulate guilt or liability, it does require the Town to pay a relatively modest fine ($5,000). It also establishes additional penalties and fines for any future violations of the plant’s “maximum average monthly effluent limitation.” Essentially, this maximum limit is the largest amount of pollution that is permitted in the plant’s discharges into the Cacapon River without causing harm.
Notably, the consent decree lacks an enhanced testing and sampling requirement to determine the plant’s average monthly effluent limit. Instead, the consent decree relies on the minimum testing schedule already in place—only four tests per year performed by the Town itself.
Given the plant’s past history and frequency of pollution, this designated level of testing is inadequate. With only four tests per year it would be difficult, if not impossible, to accurately assess the average monthly effluent limitation; consequently, leaving the Cacapon River more vulnerable to continued pollution. By definition, such an assessment should require at least two tests per month.
The Friends of the Cacapon River know wholeheartedly that the Town leaders have a mutual desire to keep the Cacapon clean. We are excited about the pending upgrade of the wastewater plant and commend the Town for its hard work on this issue. Yet, the plant’s much-needed upgrade will not be completed until July 2021.
In the meantime, the Friends of the Cacapon River—as well as everyone who enjoys the river—need assurance that the existing plant is monitored regularly and in compliance with its permit and the Consent Decree. We understand the financial and time constraints that accompany these kinds of issues and do not want the Town to be burdened with additional penalties and fines. But, we believe in the wisdom of the proverb “Trust but Verify.”
Enhanced testing will allow everyone to rest assured that all parties are abiding by the agreement and that the Cacapon River is safe for all of us to enjoy.
This consent decree is open to public comments, and we strongly urge all river lovers to take a moment to contact WVDEP with one simple message: For the Town of Capon Bridge wastewater treatment plant, require a minimum of two effluent samples and laboratory tests per month by an independent testing agency.
Your comments must be submitted by May 17, 2019. Written comments should be mailed to the Public Information Office at 601 57th Street., S.E., Charleston, WV, 25304, and email comments should be sent to DEP.Comments@wv.gov.