Phosphorus is a huge topic on the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency radar since toxic algae blooms in Lake Erie caused problems with drinking water in the Toledo area several years ago.
While algae blooms are fed primarily by nitrogen and phosphorous-rich runoff from Ohio’s farmlands, municipal wastewater treatment plants have been required to keep phosphorous levels at or under 0.5 milligrams per liter.
Based on U.S. EPA data, an average load of 585 metric tonnes per year of total phosphorus is discharged as effluent from Ohio wastewater treatment plants; but that same data set also notes that this load has remained consistent since 1981 and is not considered to be a significant contributor to the increases in phosphorous levels being measured in Ohio’s Lake Erie tributaries.
That makes little difference to the Ohio EPA. Wastewater treatment plants like Sunbury’s operate under an Ohio EPA permit umbrella, while agriculture, one of the state’s largest industries, has a strong conglomeration of lobbies in place.
During the June 1 Sunbury Village Council services committee meeting, Sunbury wastewater treatment plant supervisor Dale Wampler said all is well when it comes to phosphorous at the local plant.
“We have until 2019 have to meet the .5 phosphorus level, but we’ve been meeting that already,” Wampler said. “From April 15 to March 16, we were at .309.”
Wampler said if phosphorous levels do spike, they are easily brought down with chemical adjustments to the treatment process.
Wampler also reported that the 1.125-million-gallon-per-day plant had treated 733,000 gallons of wastewater per day during April.
“That’s a little higher than usual, possibly because of rain,” Wampler said. “Typically we treat in the mid-600s. It was consistent with the wet month.”
Wampler asked committee members to recommend that council members approve a Dukes Root Control estimate to foam 9,412 running feet of village sanitary sewer lines at $159 per foot to kill tree roots. Later that evening council members approved the request.