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City fined $8,700 for wastewater plant violations


Note: This is the first of a two-part series on the issues facing the Wastewater Treatment Plant. Part One deals with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's inspection and subsequent actions that were taken by the FDEP. Use this link to read Part 2.

$100,000 project to remove excess sludge

At last night's Apopka City Council meeting it was learned that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection fined the City of Apopka $8,700 for nine infractions the FDEP found in its November 30th - December 1st inspection of the city's wastewater treatment plant.

In a letter dated December 30, 2016, the FDEP listed 14 violations in which the plant was out of compliance. All 14 issues have been "resolved through compliance" according to a FDEP Peer Review Memo dated January 19, 2017. In the Memo FDEP proposed a civil penalty of $7,950 plus an additional $750 for department costs. Mayor Joe Kilsheimer read a three-page letter into the record during the Mayor's Report entitled "Fact Sheet: City of Apopka" that addressed the proposed fines.

"The Department of Environmental Protection informed the City that it seeks nearly $9,000 in civil penalties attached to the nine violations cited. The DEP has agreed that in lieu of paying the full penalty, the penalty can be offset through implementation of an approved Pollution Prevention Project, which will be of great benefit to the environment and the City. We intend to pursue the implementation of a Pollution Prevention Project."

Kilsheimer went on to reference the findings of an independent engineering firm the the City contracted to find the issues causing problems at the plant.

"To ensure thorough and proper resolution, the City retained Woodard & Curran, an outside engineering firm, to review and evaluate the wastewater system to identify the specific issues and causes. After a multi-week review, the Woodard & Curran consultants have identified several issues that require repair, upgrading and correction. Additionally, they stated they found nothing that would not be found at any other wastewater plant that would cause a health hazard. As part of the review, City management also asked the firm for operational, procedural and management recommendations to ensure its proper function as we simultaneously move forward with building of a new wastewater treatment system. Those recommendations are in the Woodard & Curran report."

In their draft report (the final report is expected next week), Woodard & Curran concluded that "The lack of adequate oxygen and inability to remove a growing inventory of waste biosolids will put compliance with Turbidity, Total Suspended Solids, Total Nitrogen, Nitrate Nitrogen, and Fecal Coliforms at continued risk – particularly during high flow surge periods. Achieving effluent nitrogen limits to the sprayfields (and subsequently the on-site) groundwater wells will be problematic until the 1) nitrogen loadings to the plant are reduced; 2) the ability to provide more oxygen to the processes is provided; and 3) the backlog of old biosolids are dewatered and removed from the facility."

The draft report went on to point out an issue it felt needed immediate attention.

"On the day of our inspections, we did note the presence of strong and objectionable sulfide odors near the belt press while it was dewatering biosolids. This is due to the anaerobic nature of the solids coming from the “aerobic” digesters. These odors should be addressed. There is a need to remove biosolids inventory (previously mentioned). We approximated that between 50-60 additional 20-yard trailers of dewatered sludge should be removed from the digesters and plant as soon as possible. Removal of this inventory is necessary to eliminate the odors and reduce the non-compliance risk of all effluent parameters."

In the letter, Kilsheimer details the steps that will need to taken to resolve the issue identified by Woodard & Curran.

"One significant issue contributing to the wastewater system’s problems has been a growing inventory of residual bio-solids that has built up over many months and which must be removed. The build-up of sludge is directly related to the depletion of oxygen and to the present and problematic condition of plant, causing it to be septic and in turn, having a strong odor. This will be a major project anticipated to take between two and four months at an estimated cost exceeding $100,000."

Tomorrow: Part Two - Woodard & Curran identified the problem, but how did it happen? Use this link to read Part 2.


City of Apopka, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Mayor Joe Kilsheimer, Wastewater Treatment Facililty