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EPA Settles Clean Water Act Violations with Village of Gowanda

Release Date: 03/09/2007
Contact Information: Elias Rodriguez, (212) 637-3664, rodriguez.elias@epa.gov

(New York, N.Y.) The Village of Gowanda, which spans Cattaraugus and Erie Counties in New York, has spent more than $38,000 to improve how it handles waste from its municipal sludge composting facility and paid a penalty of $1,500 for past violations of the federal Clean Water Act, thanks to a settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Under the terms of the agreement, the village has purchased a specially-designed, fully automated temperature control and recording system enabling it to better operate and maintain its sewage facility. Sewage sludge must be kept at a constant temperature to control pathogens and bacteria.

    “We are pleased that the municipality cooperated in fixing a potential public health problem by securing the right equipment to improve operations at its facility,” said Alan J. Steinberg, EPA Regional Administrator. “By agreeing to take this extra step, the village not only corrected the violations, but also ensured that it will meet requirements into the future.”
      The settlement required the facility to go beyond compliance with regulations by replacing old temperature control equipment with new technology that includes temperature sensors, specialized software, system integration, electrical installation and wiring. The design, engineering and construction of a new, fully automated temperature control and temperature recording system helps reduce the recurrence of future pathogens and ensures that the sludge the facility processes into composting materials meets the required standards for land use application, which in turn benefits the environment by allowing more sludge compost to be used for fertilizer, and reduces the amount of sludge disposed of at landfills. By agreeing to undertake this environmentally beneficial project, the village was able to reduce its penalties for violations.
        The Clean Water Act requires that operators of sewage sludge facilities maintain certain temperatures for the waste as it is processed to enable proper decomposition and prepare it for disposal. Sewage sludge or biosolids are primarily organic materials produced during wastewater treatment, which may be put to beneficial use. An example of such use is the addition of biosolids to soil to supply nutrients and make soil productive through a process known as land application.
          Composting is the controlled decomposition of organic materials, such as leaves, grass, and food scraps, by microorganisms. The result of this decomposition process is compost, a crumbly, earthy-smelling, soil-like material. Composting can greatly reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills or incinerators. Maintenance of certain temperatures is necessary for rapid composting as well as for destroying insect larvae and potentially harmful bacteria. A properly operated and maintained compost facility will ensure that public health issues associated with composting are minimized. Biosolids that are to be land applied must meet these strict regulations and quality standards.
            Information on municipal wastewater and biosolids can be found at http://www.epa.gov/OWM/mtb/biosolids/index.htm.