Over the last several years, the Cape Charles wastewater plant has found itself out of compliance with the nutrient loads it dumps in the bay, so much so that the town has had to pay fines to the Department of Environmental Quality for the violations. Last year, the State levied compliance fines of $70,000.00. This last May, the plant once again had a huge spike in phosphorus—the limit is .4, our plant registered a 1.5. From May to July, the plant has been trying to get the phosphorus number under control. Whether the plant will be able to adjust enough to get the year-to-date average below the limit and avoid another fine is still in question.
In order to keep track of waste water compliance, the town sends samples across the Bay to be tested by DEQ. The issue is that by the time the town is notified of a problem by DEQ, large spikes may already be building.
In an effort to be more proactive, Public Works has purchased its own testing kit. By testing on a weekly basis, staff will become aware of issues, such as phosphorus spikes as they are occurring, instead of waiting to find out via test reports from DEQ. This will allow staff to be more proactive when dealing with nutrient imbalances. Below is a graph of this month’s test surveys. During the last Town Council meeting, the Mirror questioned Town Manager Brent Manuel about what appeared to be high level spikes. Manuel told the Mirror that the readings had to do more with the test kits and how the readings were compiled–the actual tests from the HRSD lab were well below the .5 baseline.