A Letter to DEP About CTUB's Knowingly Incorrect Information

Tim Ross, a local meteorologist, calls out CTUB's faulty data and assertions about future weather.

February 26, 2019

Secretary Austin Caperton
West Virginia Dept of Environmental Protection
601 - 57th Street SE
Charleston, WV 25304

Dear Secretary Caperton,

I want to make you aware that the Charles Town Utility Board (CTUB) is operating the Charles Town Wastewater Treatment Plant close to or over capacity, and is also knowingly providing inaccurate and,or incomplete data to the DEP in its most recent permit modification application. I request that The Director of Water and Waste Management take steps to investigate CTUB’s capacity, closely examine recent communication from CTUB for coherence and fact, and cease all action on granting Permit WV/NPDES Permit No. WV0022349 Modification No. 8 until CTUB corrects the permit to reflect the proper amounts of wastewater and industrial waste to be produced by the Rockwool plant in Jefferson County.

In 2018 CTUB admits to your agency that over several instances from two locations CTUB did allow unknown quantities of wastewater and rainwater to flow into Evitts Run and its tributaries, and thus the Shenandoah River for a combined  total of time in excess of 32 days.  For each of these violations CTUB blames unusual weather that they call, “heavy rain,” with a solution described as “Staff worked diligently to deal with the unintentional and temporary  non-compliant spill by manually operating the basins in super-storm mode to prevent severe property damage.” The longest of these temporary spills was over 11 days.  Again, for over a month total, unknown amounts of unknown pollutants went into the Shenandoah River after flooding roads and private property.  As sad as these occurrences and the responses were, CTUB’s solution to prevent further occurrences was worse.  In a memorandum dated January 9, 2019 to Mr. Lucas Stan, of the Office of Environmental Enforcement,  CTUB manager, Jane Arnett wrote:

    “CTUB asserts that it expects future rainfall conditions to return to normal, and the likelihood will be that collection flows will return to normal.”

This assertion is not based upon any scientific fact and I hope that Mr. Stan did not accept it as a reasonable method of mitigation. In contradiction to Ms. Arnett, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is forecasting a high probability of hotter and wetter than normal conditions this summer and fall.

To exacerbate the situation, CTUB is proposing a new sewer line to service the proposed Rockwool plant and other users.  While it is unreasonable to expect system design to support  extreme conditions, it is just as unreasonable to ignore the possibility that very wet conditions could occur with more frequency.  Intense events are increasing in the Northeast, including West Virginia, and climate change science forecasts these events to increase in number and intensity. (

Data from CTUB’s monthly Discharge Monitoring Reports (DMR) show the Charles Town Wastewater Treatment Plant has been operating close to or over capacity.  CTUB reports a design capacity of 1.75 mgd, yet each month from May to December 2018 the peak flows from outlet 1 and 2 combined exceeded 2 - and sometimes 3 or 4 - mgd.  Given these numbers and the reported bypass/spill events, I believe how CTUB calculates design capacity and practical remaining capacity should be examined by your agency before allowing an additional industrial user on the system. That capacity should look at several scenarios and not just flow. If capacity is based in part on nutrient removal to comply with the Chesapeake Bay WIP, CTUB and DEP need to also evaluate how industrial waste- including chlorides - may impair the nutrient removal process.

In addition to capability issues there is also the question of CTUB’s ability to handle industrial waste. In a letter to David Simmons, Assistant Chief Inspector dated January 30, 2018,  CTUB stated they handle 40,000 gallons of industrial waste per month.  In their letter to CTUB requesting sewer service under Rule 5.5, Rockwool stated that they expected to release 46,800 gallons of sewage a day with 32,800 gallons of that being industrial waste. Rockwool will release amounts of industrial waste on a daily basis that are over 75% of what CTUB now receives in a month.  Please note that no one knows what this industrial waste will contain nor how it will affect CTUB facilities. 

While Rockwool states explicitly what their discharge volume will be, CTUB refuses to update the discharge of 14,900 gallons of waste a day they submitted in Draft Permit Modification regarding WV/NPDES Permit No. WV0022349 Modification No. 8, which was based on the information submitted within Permit Modification Application No. WV0022349-H from the City of Charles Town Utility Board (CTUB). Public Notice L117-18. 

It is obvious that CTUB is not able to handle existing volumes of wastewater and their only plan for mitigation is to assert hope as fact.  CTUB endorses the proposed new sewer requested by Rockwool even though their total projections from it are 908,216 gallons a day and they refuse to update the permit cited above currently being reviewed by DEP. 

I request that you investigate the spills and notifications of violations that occurred in 2018 and their assertion that all will return to normal. In addition, your offices should offer their expertise to CTUB in the calculation of capacity. Furthermore,  I respectfully request that you order the office of Water and Waste Management to not approve the subject permit until the numbers are changed to reflect Rockwool’s request. 

Thank you for your quick action on this important matter.

Sincerely yours,

Timothy L. Ross
Charles Town, WV 25414