DEP: Newport water, sewer authorities slapped with violations

UPDATE: abc27 got a tour Friday of the Newport Municipal Water Authority plant in question. We were shown the brand new plant and computer monitoring system that ties the boroughs three facilities together digitally.

We were told that the violations cited by the DEP stem from “growing pains,” which were caused by updating to the new system. They say that unknown to officials, bugs in the program led to faulty water quality readings that then went unreported.

They added that the system itself has an auto shut-off that would prevent any contamination of the boroughs water supply. That shut-off feature was never engaged, nor did it have reason to be, officials say.

The borough assures that water quality remains high and hopes that the DEP will grant them permission to start up operations that the plant once again.

PREVIOUSLY REPORTED: The state Department of Environmental Protection cited Newport water and sewer authorities for violations.

This week, the DEP announced an agreement with the Newport Borough Water Authority for, among other things, corrective action.

This, after the water treatment plant was slapped with violations for having drinking water quality below standards at least six days between October 2013 and March 2014. The issues had to deal with the water’s turbidity, or cloudiness.

State officials say the plant operator also failed to accurately record the levels, filed false records, and failed to tell the public.

The treatment plant is now closed.

“They are using their groundwater source until they can prove to the department they can properly manage and maintain their intake from the Juniata River. There is no need for concern,” DEP Spokeswoman Amanda Witman said.

It’s a separate issue that the DEP has fined the Newport Borough Municipal Authority, which owns the sewer treatment plant, $136,500.

The DEP says the fine steps from a massive sewer overflow, which happened for nearly a month from November 13 through December 12. During that time, 14 to 18 million gallons of raw sewage had been discharged into the Juniata River.

“Hopefully we can do on some type of installment plan, monthly payments,” Municipal Authority Chairman Jim Prescott said. “I live in Newport and I am upset about it. I wasn’t aware of the situation. If they authority was aware of the situation we would have taken care of it immediately.”

“The issue is resolved. There are no further overflows, but the department is keeping a watchful eye,” Witman said. “We feel that there is enough dilution and enough time has taken place that it is not a concern.”

There is no need for concern following both events, and there are no reports of illness, according to the DEP.

There is a special meeting on the Newport Municipal Authority March 12 to discuss how to pay the fine.

A rate increase for customers may be part of the equation.

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