ADEM

Athens Utilities may be fined $30,000 for a sewer discharge that resulted in the deaths of more than 3,000 fish, according to a proposed consent order issued late Friday.

The violations noted in the order consist of permit limit violations, discharging wastewater in the form of sanitary sewer overflows, violations of water quality standards, discharging wastewater that resulted in a fish kill and failure to submit required reports.

The order, if issued, would require Athens Utilities to submit an engineering report, including a plan for continued maintenance and assessment of the collection system, develop and implement a sanitary sewer overflow response plan, comply with permit limitations and submit a certification of compliance.

In all, 3,009 fish (60.5 pounds) were killed in the sewage spill, which was reported in May. Among the species were 17 federally protected slackwater darter, a 2-inch fish believed to exist sporadically in five locations throughout southern Tennessee and northern Alabama.

The total replacement value is estimated at $3,788.63, which includes investigative costs. The total does not include the cost of the 17 slackwater darters, however.

An Athens Utilities official explained the spill occurred during maintenance on a sewer line at the old Pilgrim's Pride site. A balloon-type bag used to stop sewage from flowing through a pipe was not removed, and the sewage backed up and overflowed from a manhole.

"This is a serious matter that I have addressed with our staff," Athens Mayor Ronnie Marks said in response to the proposed order. "The City will continue to work with ADEM and Fish and Wildlife through the process of resolving the violation."

Those wanting to comment on the proposed consent order, or request a hearing, have 30 days to so. Correspondence should be sent to Alabama Department of Environmental Management, attention Jeffery W. Kitchens, Chief of the Water Division, P.O. Box 301463, Montgomery, AL 36130-1463.

Visit https://bit.ly/31NvQ7N for a copy of the proposed order.

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