FRONT ROYAL – The town faces a deadline to fix its sewer system or spend millions of dollars to upgrade the wastewater treatment plant — again.

The Town Council heard an update at its work session Monday on efforts to keep stormwater runoff from infiltrating Front Royal’s sanitary sewer lines. The town has spent years working to correct the problem. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality issued a consent order several years ago requiring the town to reduce the amount of water entering the sewer system or install upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant.

The additional water increases the amount sent to the town’s wastewater treatment plant. A state permit limits how much wastewater the plant can treat before the facility must bypass and send the water directly to the Shenandoah River.

Town Manager Joseph Waltz told council members that within the next few years Front Royal must reduce the amount of water entering the sewer system and ending up at the wastewater treatment center. If the town fails to meet DEQ’s requirements, Front Royal would need to make more improvements to its wastewater treatment plant.

Water can enter the sanitary sewer system through storm drains, leaks in broken pipes and connections, manhole covers or frames, deteriorated manholes and where roots intrude the transmission lines, according to the report presented by Public Works Director Robert B. Boyer.

The DEQ has advised the town that it must go for two years without any sanitary sewer overflows or bypass wastewater to the river before the state agency lifts the consent order.

More than a handful of localities and entities in Virginia that oversee wastewater treatment suffer from the same problem and some received similar DEQ consent orders, Boyer reported.

The director also provided council members with information on how much inflow and infiltration affects specific areas of town. The areas seeing the most water infiltration cover much of the central part of town, according to the report. The town department is working in these areas now and recently held a meeting with interested parties prior to advertising for bids from companies that want to make improvements to the sewer system.

The town began to investigate its inventory of manholes, covers and frames and has inspected 866 of its 2,839 manholes and 109 of the related covers and frames.

The town could rehabilitate approximately 63 miles of its 124-mile sewer system, Boyer reported. The town has inspected 20 miles with closed-circuit television cameras and used smoke testing in 7.5 miles of the system to find cracks. The remaining 61 miles of sewer lines do not appear to need rehabilitation.

The department identified 0.7 miles of sewer mains and 93 lateral lines for replacement this year, Boyer reported.

– Contact Alex Bridges at abridges@nvdaily.com