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Oxford Claims Waste Treatment Plant is Back Up to Par

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OXFORD — State officials fined the city ofOxfordmore than $112,000 for more than 45 violations at its wastewater treatment plant and other sites, the largest fine ever against a municipality. Friday, the city of Oxford gave its version of what happened, and what they plan to do about it.

State inspectors said the Oxford sewage plant released excess wastewater, which was as dangerous as raw sewage, into Fishing Creek this spring.

"It's major. It's a very serious situation," says Ernie Seneca, spokesman for theState Division of Water Quality.

"It's not the type of recognition you want in the wastewater treatment world," says Tommy Marrow, Oxford's city manager.

The state stepped up enforcement of rules regarding treated sewage, or sludge this year. Marrow says the plant could not process it fast enough under the new requirements, and that is why they had to discharge partially treated wastewater into Fishing Creek.

"We want to protect the environment as much as anyone, and we didn't do anything willfully wrong," Marrow said.

The city says its waste treatment plant is now in compliance. Within a year, it should have enough excess capacity to prevent a dangerous discharge like the one this spring. The state says this should have happened a long time ago.

"They have a history of problems. It goes back 10 years," Seneca said. "We've nailed them for a variety of things."

The history of problems is why Oxford faces such a big fine.

"We're trying to get their attention. We're trying to signal, 'OK, get it done, clean it up, fix it,'" Seneca said.

Oxford also has to repair a number of leaks in its sewage lines. Plus, the city has been fined for dumping sludge too close to a stream. Along with the fine, Oxford cannot extend any new sewer lines until further notice.