MetCom Probing Sewer Problems In Piney Point, St. George's Island

By Guy Leonard, County Times

HOLLYWOOD, Md. (July 24, 2008)—The pressurized sewage system in Piney Point and St. George’s Island is receiving too much inflow from homes, rainwater and even the river – from cracks or other damage to the local sewer system – according to MetCom director Steven King, and if left alone the problem could result in sewage overflows at local pumping stations.

King said MetCom has managed the problem by sending septic tanker trucks to pumping stations in areas of the county where the water tables are high. Now, MetCom is set to examine all of the 700 odd grinder pumps for individual homes in the area to ensure they are watertight.

“We’ve noticed a tremendous increase of inflow into the system,” King told The County Times of the problems in Piney Point and on St. George’s Island. “There should be no inflow… we consider it a serious problem.”

King said flow rates in the sewer lines leading to local pumping stations have doubled, and sometimes even quadrupled on certain days during the past several months, usually after a heavy rain or storm that sends tidal waters onto the land.

Caps to the grinder pumps that have sustained damage, sometimes at the hands of unknowing homeowners, or unsealed cleanout holes in the sewer lines that may also have been opened by residents to drain standing water from their yards, could be some of the main culprits of the problems, King said.

Pipes with misaligned joints or naturally occurring problems could also be contributing to the inflow of rain and tidal waters, he said.

The cleanout holes often look like metallic or plastic caps just sticking out of the ground, King said, and can be easily damaged by a lawnmower or other moving vehicles.

While they have just about a four-inch hole when unsealed, King said, they can let in a tremendous volume of water.

King said his office has had reports of three to four residents in the last six months who have removed the seals of the cleanout holes to drain standing water. That small number leads him to believe the problem could be much greater, he said.

“Two or three of these cleanouts being opened can flood out the whole system on St. George’s Island and even parts of Piney Point,” King said. “So far we’ve had to bring in septic trucks to pump out the pumping station to prevent overflows.”

The inflow of river and rainwater has risen to enormous one-day totals due to the compromising of the local sewer system, according to some recent figures from MetCom.

Records show that during the night of May 11 through May 12, when tidal flooding hit St. Georges’s Island, the flow rate into the island’s pumping station reached 192,000 gallons per day; its annual average flow is just 18,000 gallons per day.

During the week of May 8 through May 16, after several heavy rainstorms, the average flow was more than twice as high at 42,000 gallons of water a day.

On the same day that flow rates increased 10 fold at the St. George’s Island station, the Piney Point pumping station flow increased to 417,000 gallons per day as opposed to the average annual daily flow of 152,000 gallons a day.

While the pumping stations can suffer from too much inflow of water, King said, so can the Marlay-Taylor sewage treatment plant where the sewage and extra water will ultimately be channeled.

The additional inflow decreases the capacity at the plant, which is already slated for either expansion or possible reconstruction, elsewhere to accommodate increasing water treatment demands in the Lexington Park development district.

King and other Met-Com staff will hold a community meeting with the St. George’s Island Improvement Association Aug. 1 to inform residents of the problem and corrective efforts MetCom is taking.

The meeting will also focus on what residents can do to prevent inflow to the sewer system.

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