|The city of Farmington, Missouri, southwest of St. Louis, has agreed to pay a $61,566 civil penalty to the United States to settle violations of its wastewater discharge permits and the Clean Water Act related to nickel levels in sewage sludge that was applied to farms in four area counties, and ammonia levels in wastewater discharged from the city's treatment plants.
Farmington's violations of its National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits and the Clean Water Act were documented during a January 2009 EPA inspection, according to an administrative consent agreement filed in Kansas City, KS. EPA previously issued an administrative order for compliance on February 1, 2010, requiring actions to be taken to address the violations.
During the 2009 inspection of Farmington's east and west wastewater treatment plants, a review of records noted that on 266 occasions between October 2006 and November 2008, sewage sludge from those facilities that was applied to agricultural land contained levels of nickel ranging from 59 to 791 percent above the regulatory ceiling level of 420 milligrams per kilogram, as specified by the Clean Water Act. All told, the 266 sludge applications occurred at 29 different properties in Madison, Perry, St. Francois and St. Genevieve counties, involving more than 660 acres of agricultural land. Owners of properties that received the sludge were notified of the high levels of nickel last year by the City of Farmington's Public Works Department. However, although nickel content in Farmington's 266 separate sludge distributions exceeded ceiling standards, according to EPA's calculations, it did not exceed the standards on a cumulative level.
In addition to the sludge issue, EPA's 2009 inspection also found that from February 2007 to May 2009 Farmington's wastewater treatment plants exceeded the levels of ammonia in their discharges of treated wastewater on a total of 43 occasions. These exceedances in violation of limits set by the facilities' respective NPDES permits ranged from 7 to 2,013 percent, the inspection noted.
The consent agreement is subject to a 30-day public comment period before it becomes final.