Monday numbers: NC’s biggest sewage offenders rack up millions of dollars in fines

Monday numbers: NC’s biggest sewage offenders rack up millions of dollars in fines

- in Environment, News, Top Story

Sewage backing up into people’s showers and flowing along the streets in Currituck County. Millions of gallons of hog waste flooding streams and wetlands Down East. Wastewater issues at student apartments near Appalachian State and Western Carolina universities in the mountains.

Illegal wastewater discharges are not merely a nuisance, but a threat to public health and the environment. Fecal material can contaminate drinking water wells and waterways. Industrial wastewater can contain numerous contaminants that enter the drinking water supply.

Enforcement data compiled by the NC Department of Environmental Quality show the scope of violators: public and private utilities, industry, agriculture. Some of the transgressions are one-and-done, a blip on the entity’s otherwise unremarkable compliance history.

Yet the data also reveal chronic offenders: Sandler Utilities, which owns the wastewater system at the Eagle Creek Subdivision in Currituck County, is scheduled to appear in court on Dec. 20 on allegations of civil contempt, filed by DEQ. (Envirolink operates the system on behalf of Sandler, but it also has a spotty history. The Currituck Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant in Moyock that it runs has amassed dozens of violations.)

The Minzies Creek Sanitary Sewer District entered a Special Order by Consent with DEQ in 2015. Nonetheless, it has racked up 21 penalties over the last three years, totaling more than $49,000.

Aqua America, a publicly traded company, operates in 10 states, including North Carolina. It has been the target of dozens of complaints to the NC Utilities Commission, where customers have complained of brown water flowing from their taps; the color must be extra, because Aqua has among the highest utility rates in the state. It has amassed 50 penalty cases since 2018 in several counties.

And the Town of Siler City, whose utility is groaning under the stress of massive discharges from the Mountaire poultry processing plant, has been fined $49,000 since 2018 for releases of excess pollutants including ammonia and fecal coliform into the Rocky River. Below are some of the most egregious offenders, according to DEQ data, which you can peruse by entity, month and penalty amount.

Time period January 2018 – October 2021, the latest figures available; cases might be investigated in a different year than the penalty is assessed. Dollar amounts include investigation costs. Source: state Division of Water Resources enforcement database

 

 

January – October 2021

Total penalties assessed, dollars — $1,068,373
Total penalty cases — 558
Number of entities that amassed more than $5,000 in penalties — 60

Top three entities in number of penalties

Minzies Creek Sanitary Sewer District, Holiday Island Wastewater Treatment Plant, Perquimans County — 14
Carolina Village WWTP, Currituck County — 13
Toney Lumber Co Inc – Louisburg Lumber Mill, Franklin County — 10

Top three in penalties assessed

Dutt and Wagner of NC, (poultry/eggs), Cherokee County — $52,107
Harnett County – North Harnett Regional WWTP — $40,348
City of Brevard – Brevard Collection System, Transylvania County — $39,647


2020

Total penalties assessed, dollars — $1,194,152
Total penalty cases — 609
Number of entities that amassed more than $5,000 in penalties — 50

Top three entities in number of penalties

Currituck County Moyock Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant — 15
Carolina Village WWTP, Currituck County — 11
Barium Springs Home for Children WWTP, Iredell County — 11
Union County Collection System — 11

Top three in penalties assessed

Western Carolina University, Millennial Apartments, Jackson County —$174,620
B&L Farms (hogs), Sampson County — $87,698
Sandler Utilities at Mill Run, Eagle Creek Subdivision Collection System, Currituck County — $62,517

 


2019

Total penalties assessed, dollars — $1,400,377
Total penalty cases — 669
Number of entities that amassed more than $5,000 in penalties — 55

Top three entities in number of penalties

A&D Water Service Inc, High Vista Falls, Henderson County — 18
Mizpah Healthcare Inc, Henderson’s Assisted Living — Henderson County — 15
Currituck County-Maple Commerce Park Wastewater Treatment Plant — 13

Top three in penalties assessed

Gaia Herbs, Inc., Transylvania County — $129,091
Koopman Dairies, Randolph County — $59,168
Town of Benson, Johnston County — $57,608


2018

Total penalties assessed, dollars — $991,792
Total penalty cases — 505
Number of entities that amassed more than $5,000 in penalties — 36

Top three entities in number of penalties

Currituck County Moyock Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant— 20
Fuqua Parks Timber and Development Company,  Hilltop Mobile Home Park, Orange County — 20
Boise Cascade Wood Products, Moncure Plywood, Chatham County — 14

Top three in penalties assessed

Carlson Aimee, Fendol Farms (housing subdivision), Durham County — $84,352
Low and Bonar (yarns/fibers), Buncombe County —$82,223
Fuqua Parks Timber and Development Company,  Hilltop Mobile Home Park, Orange County — $52,519