Marlinton to appeal phosphorus limits
Marlinton Mayor Dennis Driscoll reported Tuesday that the town council approved legal action to remove new phosphorus limits from the municipal sewage treatment plant's water discharge permit.
The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) imposed new phosphorus limits on permit holders along the Greenbrier River this year in an attempt to control severe algae blooms occurring on the lower reaches of the river. A DEP study correlated phosphorus levels with the algae booms, which the agency said detracts from recreational use of the river.
Hillsboro and White Sulphur Springs waged a successful appeal to the West Virginia Environmental Quality Board (EQB) earlier this year. In an order issued July 15, the EQB ruled that DEP had not used "sound science" to establish the phosphorus limits and that the limits must be "revised or removed."
The DEP has appealed the order.
Driscoll said Marlinton would utilize the same legal firm that handled the case for White Sulphur Springs and Hillsboro.
"We have filed, through Steptoe and Johnson, or will be filed, a paper to have them abate the phosphorus requirements for Marlinton as they did for White Sulphur Springs and Hillsboro," he said. "They won their case. So we're going to go in and ask for an abatement for us until they get this straightened out."
The town contracted with Potesta Engineering, of Charleston, to design an upgrade to the town's sewage plant to meet the new limits. The firm's preliminary estimate said it would cost $1-$3 million to meet DEP's phosphorus limits for the first five years, after which even more stringent limits would go into effect.ﾠ
Driscoll said the limits established by DEP were unrealistic.
"The goals that they gave us for five years and 20 years are impossible to meet because we don't have the equipment to measure it," he said.
Although Potesta had not completed a final design, the firm notified Driscoll that the upgrade might not be necessary.
"Potesta called me and said, 'look, this person at Steptoe and Johnson wants to talk to you,'" the mayor said. "They wanted to have a meeting in White Sulphur Springs with all the people that had been involved before."
The mayor said Potesta was completely amenable to a contract modification to eliminate the sewer plant design work.
"They're just nice people," he said. "One of the principals of Potesta went in and testified against the DEP and his testimony was one of the things that won the case."