Great Lakes Companies Fined $833 for Wastewater Violations

Feb. 6, 2007

The Department of Environmental Protection today fined the Great Lakes Companies, Inc., of Madison, Wis., $833,349 for water quality and odor violations associated with the company’s Great Wolf Lodge wastewater treatment plant in Pocono Township, Pa.

“This problem has caused considerable concern in the community due to the obvious stream pollution and sewage odors, and this penalty is a fair reflection of the severity of the violations,” said Michael Bedrin, DEP Northeast Regional Director. “The company has acknowledged the problems and violations that led to pollution of Scot Run and has agreed to pay this penalty.”

DEP issued water quality permits to Great Lakes Companies in 2003. The permits established stream discharge limits, and authorized construction of a sewage treatment plant rated at 90,000 gallons per day with a spray irrigation system that would be used from April 10 through Oct. 31.

DEP began receiving citizen complaints in early December 2005 about a sewage odor coming from the Great Wolf Lodge property. A Dec. 22, 2005 DEP inspection noted that the discharge was cloudy and an excessive amount of grease was entering the plant and inhibiting the plant’s ability to properly treat wastewater. Samples of the discharge were taken and violations were noted in the sample results.

Additional inspections of the plant in early March 2006 noted continuing violations of the company’s discharge permit and a Notice of Violation (NOV) was sent to Great Wolf Lodge on March 15 for the discharge violations.

An enforcement conference was held with the company on March 21 to discuss corrective action. That enforcement conference led to the company hauling its wastewater to another treatment plant off-site, installing a larger grease trap for its kitchens and implementing plumbing changes to reduce the amount of flow reaching the treatment plant.

On March 15, 2006, prior to the enforcement conference, DEP conducted an aquatic survey of Scot Run and determined that approximately 3,600 feet of the stream had been impacted by the resort’s discharge. The biologist also determined that the stream could fully recover if Great Wolf took immediate corrective actions. DEP requested the company hire an aquatic biologist to conduct additional stream surveys and conduct a comprehensive stream cleanup of all affected areas.

Immediately after the department’s enforcement conference, the sewage treatment plant was taken off line and totally cleaned and rehabilitated. The plant was allowed back in operation on March 29 but with the treated wastewater still being trucked off-site for disposal. Inspections of the stream cleanup indicated that permanent damage to the water resource had been avoided.

Samples taken in early April showed continued violation of the company’s discharge limits. As a result, DEP required the company to continue to truck their wastewater off-site and begin utilizing the spray irrigation system for some of the discharge to help stabilize the sewage treatment plant’s biology.

In April and May, DEP inspections found that the plant was operating in compliance and a July aquatic survey showed that the stream was showing signs of recovery.

However, odor complaints were again received on July 3 and DEP confirmed an off-site odor violation coming from the treatment plant. July and August discharge samples taken by DEP also noted violations. Additional violations were noted on Aug. 2, including discharge to the stream when the spray irrigation system was to be used. A second NOV was sent to Great Wolf Lodge on Aug. 17 followed by a second enforcement conference on Aug. 30.

The company was required to cease stream discharges, continue spray irrigation only, and haul excess wastewater off-site. DEP also required the company to submit weekly progress reports and conduct quarterly groundwater monitoring for the next three years to ensure that the spray irrigation system does not adversely affect groundwater.

An inspection of the treatment plant on Sept. 5 showed that the plant was in compliance, and has continued to operate in compliance since that time. Negotiations for the civil penalty began in December 2006 once compliance was established.

Source: DEP

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