What is the Public Service Sewer District?
The Berkeley County Public Service Sewer District’s mission is to protect public health, prevent pollution and support community and economic development providing wastewater collection treatment. In short, we work to protect Berkeley County’s communities and citizens.
This is the largest sewage district in the state.
We have more than 60 employees. Our board has three members.
We have four major facilities. We also operate a pre-treatment plant. We operate nine smaller plants, too – they serve subdivisions and other regions that are outside our main areas.
How old is the district?
The district was formed more than 40 years ago, and it has taken over several plants during that time with most of them being in the past 20 years.
During that time, we have absorbed several underperforming sewage plants and worked to get them into compliance. The goal was to provide the best quality sewage service possible. We have kept pace with the tremendous growth of this community. The system has greatly improved over the years. We’re proud of that.
What is the district’s relationship with the community?
We’ve fostered wonderful relationships with community groups in the area. We’ve participated in many community outreach and charitable efforts. This is our home, and our work reflects that. Over the years, we’ve invested more than $150 million in infrastructure improvements, and our growing region has benefitted tremendously from that investment.
Why was there a lawsuit against the district?
After years of continually modernizing the county’s sewage system, ensuring our communities have clean water and working to exceed regulatory standards, we’re happy to finally reach a settlement with the EPA and Department of Justice. This settlement comes after three years of negotiations, but our effort to improve the county’s sewage system is decades old.
Years ago, when we took over, the county was experiencing tremendous growth. Because of that, some sewage plants were overloaded. Smaller plants were not treating sewage properly. The DEP asked us to help, and every day since we’ve strived for marked improvement. We’ve made the system smarter, more efficient, safer, and cleaner.
When we took over, the systems and individual facilities experienced violations from both the DEP and the EPA. That’s a reality we recognized when we took over the systems, and we’ve always had an open dialogue with regulators.
At times, the negotiations, enforcement orders and settlements with regulatory entities have heightened the challenge. We had to invest time and money in regulatory back-and-forth – investment that could have gone to our systems. Even still, we were optimizing all along the way. To read more details about the lawsuit settlement, view the news release here.
How much has the district invested in infrastructure improvements?
We’ve invested more than $150 million in our system.
Even during the times Berkeley County struggled with growth and budgetary constraints, we’ve been investing in plants and infrastructure. It’s been perpetual improvements. We’ve employed an optimization plan. The district’s work allowed other treatment plants in the region to upgrade. We achieved compliance. Growth in Berkeley County followed.
We’ve removed seven smaller treatment plants over the years. We’re looking to eliminate one more soon. Eventually, we’ll extend the system to others. We’re making the system more efficient. We’re making sure it’s better positioned to serve our citizens.
We worked with the State Legislature for a bill that provides funding for Chesapeake Bay obligations. That critical bill funded projects, with most of the money invested in the Eastern Panhandle. We have $13 million in grant dollars, and we saw a total of $100 million distributed to facilities in Chesapeake Bay watershed.
How does the BCPSSD performance today compare to other public sewer districts?
Very well. We maintain a regulatory compliance from month to month of between 94 and 99 percent. That rate is continually increasing, and it exceeds the national average.
Proudly, we recently received three gold and five silver Peak Performance Awards from the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), which recognized 462 facilities across the country for excellence in wastewater treatment as measured by compliance with various permits. View the news release here.
Is the Sewer District the same as the Stormwater District?
No. The Berkeley County Public Service Stormwater District is a separate entity. It is a Phase II Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) that follows a stormwater management plan.
What is the purpose of the Stormwater District?
The Stormwater District is concerned with all types of rain flow. Its work involves street sweeping, public outreach, discharge elimination, stream monitoring, runoff control and pollution prevention.
Rainwater picks up pollutants when is flows over surfaces. If that’s not managed properly, it reaches waterways. Improperly designed construction causes flooding. The Stormwater District’s job is to manage it properly and see that construction does not cause new problems.
Why is Berkeley County concerned about stormwater?
The district has taken steps toward compliance related to the Chesapeake Bay watershed, which spans more than 64,000 square miles, encompassing parts of six states — Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia — and the entire District of Columbia. That area includes much of Berkeley County. More than 18 million people live in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The land-to-water ratio of the Chesapeake Bay is 14:1 — the largest of any coastal water body in the world – and that’s why it’s important to control what stormwater transports from land to water.
Federal and state law directs every community to comply with stormwater permit standards based on population. Berkeley is no different, and in 2004, the county obtained permit coverage. The whole county is currently covered under a stormwater permit.
Where does funding come from?
In 2011, the county transferred the stormwater permit to the district without predictable income or a way to pay for it. The Sewer District agreed to help and ended up with the permit and the obligations, but the move didn’t include funding.
Under state law, sewer revenue can’t be used on stormwater projects.
Limited grant money helped, but the Sewer District has recognized more money is needed to fulfill obligations. In 2018, the county set up a separate district for stormwater. The district began instituting a monthly fee in 2019.
Why is a monthly fee needed?
The County has established a monthly fee to help pay for administration of the program and other improvements. All Berkeley citizens benefit from stormwater management. That’s because we all benefit from a cleaner environment.
Is the recent DOJ settlement related to the stormwater fee?
No. The stormwater fee is not related to the Department of Justice settlement. That money goes to the Stormwater District for stormwater management work.