Local News

Oxford Spending $10 Million To Prevent Sewage Spills

Posted December 9, 2005 5:50 a.m. EST

— A small North Carolina town plagued by frequent sewage spills is cleaning up its act.

Numerous spills at the waste water treatment plant have prompted state fines -- and even a lawsuit.

But, now a $10 million project should put an end to the problem.

The Oxford Sewage Treatment Plant has had fewer spills this year because of dry weather, but the problem is still happening.

"...It was heavy rains that overloaded our system here," said Larry Thomas, Oxford public works director. "The needle pegged at 8 million gallons coming through and normally we treat about 1.1 to 1.2 million gallons."

The four major spills this year came after heavy rains.

"The problem is the structure is a little too small for the amount of rain we get," Thomas said.

The overflow spills onto the ground and drains into a ditch that eventually empties into Fishing Creek.

Just this month, 65,000 gallons of untreated sewage has poured into the Tar-Pamlico basin. The State fined Oxford for previous spills, but not the more recent ones because the city is fixing the problem.

"We're building a new plant -- as you can well see we are investing about $10.2 million and the new structure will be about one and a half times the old one," Thomas said.

The plant should be ready by August 2006 and it should end future sewage spills, but won't end Oxford's legal troubles.

The Tar-Pamlico River Keepers association is suing the state and Oxford, citing harm to the environment.

The lawsuit challenges the consent order between the state and Oxford to waive the fines for spills while the plant is being built.