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Pool probe DEP continues investigation into fish kill

Published June 26. 2010 09:00AM

The Borough of Tamaqua is working on a permanent fix to a problem with the wastewater backwash from its community pool that was discovered by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

Meanwhile, DEP is continuing to probe for the cause of a fish kill that turned up in the Little Schuylkill River last month.

On Thursday, borough officials met with DEP at its Northeast regional office in Wilkes-Barre, concerning the Howard Buehler Memorial Pool, which is located in the Bungalow park on the west end of Tamaqua.

While investigating possible causes of the dead fish, DEP discovered that the backwash from the pool was being deposited into a manhole adjacent to the pool, leading to an unnamed tributary of the Wabash Creek, which feeds into the Little Schuylkill River.

The backwash is wastewater from the pool, and according to regulations, it must be discharged into the sewage system. The backwash that DEP discovered contained a hydrochloric acid solution that was used to clean the pool walls and floor. Chlorinated backwash water is considered to be industrial waste by the Clean Streams Law.

At that point, DEP issued a notice of violation to the borough, with a call to meet on June 24 concerning the situation.

Borough Manager Kevin Steigerwalt, who attended the enforcement meeting, said a temporary fix has been hooked up for the backwash while a more permanent solution is being considered.

"They seemed satisfied with what we're doing for the time being while we work on a permanent fix, which is going to take some time," said Steigerwalt. "We are making the corrections to fix it."

Steigerwalt explained that the borough received a tentative design for fixing the backwash problem from its contractor and faxed it to Wayne Wade of Wade Associates, Inc., Harrisburg, the consultant who designed the current improvements to the pool. Once the design is approved, the work will be put out to bid.

Steigerwalt added that he doesn't see the Buehler pool being closed during the process.

"That's not on anybody's plan," he stated.

Meanwhile, Rob Jones of the Tamaqua Area Water Authority made a plumbing change at the pool, installing a coupling and running a line to allow the backwash to temporarily tap into the sewer line at the end of the dirt driveway.

Mark Carmon, spokesman for DEP Wilkes-Barre, concurred that the borough is working to rectify the pool problem.

"On June 24, the regional Water Management Program held an enforcement conference with the Tamaqua Borough Manager, Public Works Director and Pool Operator to discuss the illegal discharge of pool backwash water to Wabash Creek, as verified by Department staff on May 28 and a subsequent discharge that occurred on June 7," reported Carmon.

"The borough presented its interim and proposed permanent plans to discharge pool cleaning and backwash wastewater in the future. These plans involve discharging the wastewater to the sanitary sewer system via temporary (interim) piping and subsequent permanent piping, including the installation of an above-ground storage tank and suction pump to facilitate the necessary flows to the sanitary sewer. Completion of construction is anticipated in the fall."

Carmon also noted that DEP requested the Borough provide two business days notice of future backwashes, a log of all backwashes, a Standard Operating Procedure for backwashes and pool cleanings anticipated with the permanent system, schematics of the interim and permanent plans, a schedule of compliance (by July 9) that would include a timetable for council's various bidding and contracting procedures, and monthly status reports of its progress.

In another sewer matter, Steigerwalt said the borough has discovered 37 "wildcat" sewer lines that are illegally feeding into the Little Schuylkill. Tamaqua Council has approved advertising for Requests for Proposals (RFPs) to identify the sources of the illegal discharges.

"Once the RFPs go out and we can identify the source, they will have to connect to the public sewer system," said Steigerwalt.

The cause of the dead fish has yet to be determined. "They are still investigating that and don't know what caused it," said Steigerwalt.

"Our investigation of the fish kill is still underway, and we will continue to monitor the borough's progress on this problem," added Carmon.

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