The Freistatt Village Board was informed at its October meeting that the Missouri Department of Natural Resources was seeking penalties against the village for the sewage bypass spill on Dec. 17, 2009.
According to a DNR spokesperson, the village's primary shortcoming and the source for most of the proposed penalties was due to an expired wastewater permit at the time of the incident.
Clerk Deborah Schoen told trustees previous wastewater operator Charlie Ingram submitted the renewal application, which the DNR's own copy showed arrived on March 19, 2009. The license expired on July 12, 2009. The first correspondence the village received back on its application was dated Sept. 16, 2009. The village was told a form was missing. New wastewater operator Charles Stearns filed the form on Oct. 14, 2009.
A letter from DNR dated Dec. 23, 2009, about the sewer spill a week earlier stated penalties were due because the village's wastewater permit had expired.
Schoen called DNR's Springfield office. The reviewer handling the permit said he had had the application for some time on the corner of his desk, but there was still a signature missing, though the village had not been informed of that. Schoen said because of the sewage spill, resolving the permit issue was important. The missing signature was added, and the form returned within a week.
The village got a preliminary version of its wastewater permit for review in April and the final version on June 21, 15 months after the original application was filed.
Schoen said the DNR spokesperson indicated the village was facing $3,016 in penalties. Of that, $2,250 was civil fines, mostly for operating without a permit, and $766 in costs to investigate the spill.
The spokesperson suggested the village make a counter offer or protest the penalties, leaving final resolution up to the DNR reviewers. The village was given 15 days to respond or the matter would be turned over to the Missouri Attorney General.
Board members decided to make a detailed accounting of what they had done in response to the incident. Two of the landowners had been paid $500 each for damages to the bean crop and tests costing $190 were done for a third. The contamination was cleaned up within 24 hours, and lime spread to absorb additional residue.
An account of the permit process was also prepared.
Part of the concern raised over the sewer spill stemmed from the possibility of sewage getting into the water table and thus contaminating the public drinking water system. According to Schoen, representatives from Simmons Engineering indicated Freistatt's system was uniquely set up as a private pond. The lagoon has no access to another waterway.
The board agreed to implement a DNR-approved fats, oil and grease program, a maintenance and repair program for the collection system and a system to track sanitary sewer overflows.
Board members approved a letter in response to DNR at their October meeting, admitting that having a sewage spill in itself was a violation. The board's letter asked for reconsideration of penalties in light of the circumstances and the permit renewal process.