ADEM fines Calera for sewage – Rapid growth cause of sewer overflow into creek

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 22, 2004

A state environmental agency fined the city of Calera last week after determining the city’s sewage treatment plant polluted an endangered creek for several months during 2003.

Last Wednesday, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management sent a letter to Calera city officials notifying them of a proposed $5,500 penalty. The public has about one month to comment on the proposed fine.

Specifically, the Calera sewage treatment plant exceeded permitted levels of pollutants from April through September 2003.

The pollutants, which are by-products of treated sewage, were released into a portion of Buxahatchee Creek that is listed as threatened by ADEM. The creek runs adjacent to Calera’s treatment plant.

According to ADEM, Calera has about a year-and-a-half to bring its sewage treatment under compliance.

In the meantime, the city is to continue efforts to improve its sewage treatment, and further violations may warrant new fines.

Some of the pollutants released into the creek as treated sewage were too high because the city regularly treats up to twice the amount of sewage the plant is designed to treat.

According to Doug Smedley of the Calera public works department, the sewage plant treats up to 1.5 million gallons following a heavy rain, although the plant is only designed to treat 750,000 gallons.

ADEM spokesman Clint Niemeyer said Monday that Calera was struggling to accommodate the large amounts of sewage generated by the city’s rapid growth.

&uot;They’re trying to play a little catch up there, I think,&uot; he said. &uot;We’re going to give them plenty of time so that their improvements are done properly.&uot;

Although Niemeyer said Calera had experienced &uot;exceptional growth&uot; that led to the sewage violations, he did not foresee ADEM enforcing a moratorium on sewage increases for the city.

Since Buxahatchee Creek is listed on ADEM’s 303(d) list of impaired waterways, Calera must take additional steps to ensure that released sewage is treated properly.

&uot;They have to be much more cognizant of their limitations,&uot; Niemeyer said.

According to Niemeyer, ADEM considered Calera’s on-going expansion of its sewage system during their investigation and enforcement.

Calera recently received approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to begin construction of its sewage expansion and renovation, which will increase the city’s treatment capacity by 500 percent.

Currently, Calera’s only sewage plant has a treatment capacity of 750,000 gallons per day. The original facility was built in 1960, with additions in 1985.

Once the city’s sewage treatment upgrade is completed, its total capacity will be five million gallons per day