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City of Wapato’s sewage treatment plant cited for exceeding ammonia levels and operating without a water discharge permit

Release Date: 03/29/2012
Contact Information: Derek Schruhl, EPA NPDES Compliance Unit, 206-553-1146,; Tony Brown, EPA Public Affairs, 206-553-1203,

(Seattle—March 29, 2012) The City of Wapato, Washington will pay a fine for excess pollution discharges from its municipal sewage treatment facility in violation of its Clean Water Act permit, according to an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The City’s wastewater treatment facility provides secondary treatment of wastewater prior to discharge to the Yakima River. The violations took place on Yakama tribal land, but the facility is not tribally-owned.

The treatment facility exceeded levels of ammonia in its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit more than 431 times between 2006-2010. Ammonia constituted the majority of the violations. The Facility also discharged without permit between June 2010 and September 2011. The City will pay a fine of $57,000.

“Pollutant discharge limits safeguard our waterways against environmental harm,” said Kimberly Ogle, NPDES Unit Manager at EPA’s Seattle office. “Facilities have a responsibility to stick to approved levels. The City of Wapato is working with EPA to come into compliance.”

Ammonia occurs naturally and is also produced by human activity. Exposure to high levels of ammonia can cause irritation and serious burns on the skin and in the mouth, throat, lungs, and eyes. Ammonia and heavy metals like zinc and copper, even in small amounts, can be highly toxic to aquatic organisms, including fish.

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