Sensus is located in the former Rockwell plant on Hopkinsville Road, which became BTR, Invensys then Sensus. The factory has remained a die casting facility.
After lengthy discussion Tuesday, she informed Sensus representatives she would shut off the industry's water and cement their sewer mains if they didn't pay the charges within 30 days.
Sensus reps Barry McReynolds (vice president), Tom Inman (environmental) and William Hansard (environmental consultant) were at Tuesday's meeting strongly disagreeing with the mayor and expressing immense concern about the city's decision to enforce the charges as well as their reasoning behind it.
According to Russellville waste water superintendent Jane Kisselbaugh, there has been discharge into the city's system with extremely high COD content exceeding the Russellville plant's levels of 350 ppm COD. The emissions have been traced back to Sensus Die Casting. According to test results taken and supplied by Sensus, their highest hit in April for COD was 30,748.
“Sensus has been hitting high levels of BOD (Biological Oxygen Demand) for years now,” said Kisselbaugh in a recent interview with the News-Democrat & Leader. “Sensus has been paying surcharges in the neighborhood of $30,000 annually for exceeding BOD levels and we have been handling them.” Lately, however, reported Kisselbaugh, they have noticed significant elevations in COD limits as well. According to Kisselbaugh the city's treatment plant has suffered two excursions because of this, which were reported to the state.
Because of these levels, the city charged Sensus according to its ordinance. Sensus received a $22,000 bill for surcharges in February, a $34,000 bill for surcharges in March and as of Thursday has incurred $34,000 in fines for not paying either of those. According to the city's assistant utilities director, Wayne Thomas, and the city's ordinance, Sensus is being charged $1,000 a day in fines for the February bill and $2,000 a day for March's bill until it is paid. Thomas also reported Sensus will soon be receiving a bill for April's surcharges in the amount of $61,768.
Another meeting of the two bodies took place Thursday in attempts to further iron out the issues. Sensus Attorney Charles English told the city council Sensus would issue the city a promissory note for the surcharges and asked if the city would consider dropping the fines and suspending any additional ones until a solution is found. He also asked if the city could go back to just charging Sensus for the lesser offense of BODs like it has in the past.
Mayor Yassney said the council would have to seek legal advise before giving an answer.
It was discussed at a previous meeting between the city and Sensus that an engineering study be performed on the city's plant to see if elevations for COD and BOD limits could be raised. It was suggested by the city to use the surcharge money to pay for the study, considering the city didn't have the funds budgeted to perform the review. The city's plant was upgraded and limits were set in 1998.
At first Sensus representatives stated they didn't think Sensus should be responsible for funding the study and wondered if it were even necessary; however, at Thursday's meeting attorney English said Sensus would be willing to pay for half of the study.
Sensus contends the plant is more than capable of handling the levels of COD and BOD coming in now. Yassney said if changes were to be made to the ordinance concerning level increases they would have to be made by an engineering study approved by the state.
Kisselbaugh said the plant's capacity is 2.4 million gallons per day. Currently the plant runs 1.094 million gallons a day. She said the level of Sensus's recent emissions into the plant, although they are being handled, cannot continue without eventual problems with the state.
“If we continue to exceed our limits we will be given a notice of violation (NOV) by the state,” said Thomas. “This could cause us additional costs. We are a not-for-profit business. We cannot incur any additional costs or the customers rates will have to go up.”
Sensus reps said they hadn't seen any proof the Russellville plant had received any violations from the state. Kisselbaugh noted the two excursions in March, which the treatment plant encountered were sent off to the state and they hadn't heard anything back yet but were confident the state would not be happy about them. “This is the first time we have been noncompliant in our reduction rate in a decade,” said Kisselbaugh.
At the beginning of Tuesday's meeting McReynolds stated, “Sensus has no plans to move the facility at this point or to close it down. However, we are faced with a financial crunch because of soaring natural gas prices and rising aluminum costs, and our largest customer, Delphi, is in bankruptcy. These situations create an unstable financial foundation for our facility. To continue down this path that we are on right now will very likely begin the process of relocating or closing this facility.”
McReynolds said Sensus was surprised when they received the surcharge for February. “There was no phone call, there was no indication that the city had concern with our waste water,” said McReynolds.
“What you are sending to our sewer plant is not acceptable,” said Yassney. “Your own tests show you are over the accepted limits. What I have observed over the past few weeks is that Sensus has been more intent on second-guessing our ordinance as opposed to solving the issues at your plant.”
Another question raised at Tuesday's meeting involved Rockwell's treatment facility, which is located beside Sensus and is mandated by the state to filter Sensus's wastewater and test for PCBs. According to both Sensus and the city of Russellville, Rockwell is the last facility to actually handle the waste before it is sent to the city's system. Rockwell runs off of Sensus's discharge permit.
Sensus environmental consultant William Hansard said the wastewater treatment plant isn't receiving wastewater from Sensus but from Rockwell's treatment facility. “We are concerned about Rockwell's ability to alter the characteristics of Sensus waste water. It (city) is holding Sensus responsible for discharges Rockwell is making,” said Hansard.
“They don't have a discharge permit?” asked Russellville Councilman Gene Zick. “That is exactly right and they should have,” said Hansard, who believes the city should require Rockwell to have its own discharge permit.
Yassney reminded Hansard that Rockwell works under Sensus' permit. Hansard noted Sensus has gone to Rockwell with many complaints and has had meetings but said, “They basically do what they want to. We have no regulatory control over them.”
Zick suggested at Thursday's meeting accepting the promissory note, suspending the fines and having an engineering study performed on the city's plant to see if the levels could be raised. He also suggested that Sensus consider beefing up its own pre-treatment process. The engineering study is estimated to cost between $10,000 and $16,000.
No motions or concrete actions were taken at either Tuesday's or Thursday's meetings.