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Posted November 5, 2012 | comments 22 Comments

DEQ: George's polluting creek with ammonia

By Alex Bridges

A poultry manufacturing plant in Edinburg under investigation for polluting a nearby stream in late August violated its permit again beginning last week.

George's Chicken on Oct. 28 released more ammonia with its wastewater into Stoney Creek than allowed by its state permit, according to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

The amount of ammonia in the effluent released from the treatment facility at 117 Screech Owl Lane rose to more than five times the permitted limit, and levels remained high Sunday, according to Noel Thomas, compliance inspector senior at DEQ's valley regional office.

"I don't think we have human health concerns regarding the levels of ammonia to the stream," Thomas states in an email Monday. "Our concern would be a toxicity concern for the aquatic life."

However, heavy rainfall brought by Superstorm Sandy last week likely helped to dilute the ammonia released into the stream, according to Thomas.

"DEQ is continuing to monitor the situation," Thomas states.

The wastewater treatment facility that handles releases for George's Chicken, 19998 Senedo Road, and the nearby Mountain View rendering plant violated its state permit in early August after releasing high amounts of ammonia, according to the agency.

DEQ enforcement agents continue to work with George's Chicken on the permit issue and the case from early August is ongoing, Thomas states.

But last week volunteers with the Friends of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River noticed the discharge from George's again did not appear normal, according to a member of the organization's board. The group advised DEQ and officials explained the plant had been experiencing more discharge problems and exceeded its permit, the member stated in an email.

"The plant appears to have lost nitrification ability," Thomas states. "All of the other parameters at the plant are reported to be within normal ranges and no unusual activity is known."

Reports of the discharge location indicate the water had some patchy foam dissipating in the first 75 yards, Thomas states. The discharge is not reported to be turbid nor is there a noticeable plume in the stream, according to Thomas. Recent storms kept the stream running high, he added.

The DEQ permit limits the plant to 8 milligrams per liter of ammonia in its effluent, according to Thomas. On Oct. 28, the wastewater had 8.9 milligrams per liter. Thomas stated in an email George's began conducting more tests to monitor levels. The amount of ammonia increased to 20 milligrams per liter by 6 p.m., Thomas states.

George's notified DEQ of the discharge and ammonia levels the following day.

However, ammonia levels continued to increase on Oct. 30 to the mid-30s with the highest amount reported at 42 milligrams per liter. Values reported Sunday were 37 milligrams per liter at 7 a.m. and 36 milligrams per liter at 1 p.m., according to Thomas.

Plant workers initially suspected quaternary ammonia caused the problem and responded by adding a chemical to neutralize it, Thomas explained. Quaternary ammonia, a compound commonly used as a cleaner, can interfere at lower concentrations with biological wastewater treatment systems, according to Thomas. Most treatment facilities no longer use the compound, he added.

However workers did not locate a source of the quaternary ammonia in the plant or from any other operation serviced by their system, according to Thomas. As of Monday workers had begun to add nitrifiers in an effort to regain plant treatment efficiency, Thomas stated. Workers also continued their search for a cause in the facility's loss of nitrification in its biological treatment system.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

22 Comments |

    And they will continue to do so until the citizens of ShenCo stand up and say enough is enough.

      The only way we can say enough is to get the corrupt board of Supervisors that have campaigns funded by them out. Since it is so crooked in Shen. Co. that they all ran unopposed then we must sign the petition to have them removed. Contact shruntz@shentel.net or cbailey2@shentel.net to do so.

    And yet Republicans like Twitt Romney think we need LESS regulation. Remember this tomorrow at your polling place. A vote for Twitt is saying "go ahead" pollute the heII out of this place!

    This is why we need regulations, checks, and balances.

    To "Moderate",
    You clearly hit the nail on the head! Twitt will destroy our country all in the name of Greed. He will try to deregulate everything and anything so him and his outsourcing cronnies can make millions more. It might just be the time to lock & load because these fool's Mitt/Ryan might just cause another Civil War.

    SHUT THEM DOWN!!!! If they can't pollute properly they shouldn't be allowed to operate. We do we let them discharge anything but clean water anyway? What you don't know WILL kill you ( or deform your babies).

      I agree 100% with what you have said, wolfcr! To me it shows 'George's' arrogance and disdain for the people of this area when they not only have polluted, but continue as though 'they' do not have to follow rules that are in place for the benefit of the rest of us.

    "It might just be the time to lock & load because these fool's Mitt/Ryan might just cause another Civil War."

    Motor Man

    What is that supposed to mean? I thought only teabillies were the ones that made comments like that.

    So the plant should be shutdown for two violations that aren't harmful to humans?

    It's a factory. -Equipment breaks, people screw up. Keep an eye on them and keep the pressure on them but screaming bloody murder (no pun intended) isn't the answer...

    "So the plant should be shutdown for two violations that aren't harmful to humans? "

    Wait, polluted water isn't harmful to humans? Just think of all the money we could save on that pointless water treatment plant now that I know it is safe to drink straight out of the river... thanks again for your insightful comment.

    Thanks for reporting this story. I hope the NVD continues to follow it, as it will likely be the only way citizens of Shenandoah County can stay informed about the progress George's is making to remedy the issue. Even if the ammonia levels are not high enough to affect human health, aquatic health in our county is important too-- recreation & tourism contributes to the health of our county's economy.

    Shenandoah County is a festering boil on the backside of Virginia's reputation as a progressive and modern state.
    Former Judge busted for growing Marijuana and gets a smack on the wrist and Board of Supervisors that resembles a cast reunion of the movie Mississippi Burning. People makes jokes about "The Good Ol' Boy Club" but sadly it is a painful reality in Shenandoah County. This failed back woods, red neck and small town government dysfunction does not serve the interests of the citizens when they allow "favors and friends" to dominate their decisions. They all need to retire or be removed by a vote because they have proven that the only thing they can do effectively is ignore the law for their friends and family.

    But yet the board of supervisors allows Mt. View Rendering to increase their production. Just where the hell do you think they dump their wastewater? That's right, they use George's waste water treatment facility. Way to go supervisors.

    My house sits on Stoney Creek overlooking the campground and on nice summer days there are dozens of kids swimming and fishing in the creek...'nuff said.

    I've been down by the strasburg swimming pool, and have seen alot of people swimming in the river near there instead of the pool. I'm not sure if alot of them know that the waste water plant is right upstream from there. I just assume the outfall to the plant is upstream also.

    I know it is treated, but I think i would swim elsewhere.

    Can one of you ranting morons explain what the BOS has to do with a George's water release? You idiots talk about redneck this, corrupt that, good ole boy here there and everywhere; yet, expect to sound like an educated citizenry. You blame the BoS for a water release that is outside the regulated limits set by DEQ of which the BoS has no authority over.

    Aw hell, who am I trying to convince? I'm just a little bacteria living in the festering boil of corrupt darkness waiting for some a$$ clown, tree huggin, hippie to tell me how morally defunct I really am. I can't wait until I'm shown the light of enrichment from someone in Baltimore or DC. Obviously with the state of disarray and complete decay in both of those areas, I'm completely misguided in trusting my own rather than the high and mighty moron blaming someone who has nothing to do with the situation.

      "a little bacteria living in the festering boil"...this must have been a more of a literal statement then scientific. I'm not sure what Georges "DMR" says, and what amonia has to do with e. coli or fecal coliform.

      If I lived downstream before stoney enters the shenandoah, i would make a fuss about it also.

    Yep the article does start with DEQ:

    I do not think the BOS comes out and does the inspections on these wastewater systems.

    Until a few weeks ago, I didn't know what "BOS" meant!


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