Comparing Notes

Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Union Water Department and Union Fire Protection officials met Thursday at the city’s wastewater treatment plant south of Highway 50 off Highway 47 after a dark brown oily chemical was found at the treatment facility. Investigators are looking for the source of the chemical that has a citrus odor.

State and federal authorities have taken test samples of a dark brown oily chemical found in the city’s wastewater treatment plant Thursday.

City Administrator Russell Rost said members of both the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and federal Environmental Protection Agency took samples of the chemical found by city water department staff members at the plant.

He noted that the chemical has a citrus odor. The plant is located off Highway 47 south of Highway 50.

City officials said the chemical could kill enzymes that break down waste in the treatment plant, but there is no danger to residents. The wastewater is not placed into the city’s drinking water supply.

Rost told The Missourian that the treatment plant appears to be working as it should at this point.

The treatment plant now appears to be returning to its natural operation,” he said. “There is buildup of the chemical on concrete structures that we will have to pay someone to remove — hopefully soon and everything will be back to normal.”

According to Rost, the chemical was likely illegally dumped by a local manufacturer. City crews may have pinpointed a manhole near where the chemical was dumped.

“We have taken samples from where we believe it came from and we will compare that with the other samples,” he said. “We should be able to determine where it came from with no problems.”

Once the source is determined, the offender could be prosecuted.

“There definitely are expenses dealing with the situation,” Rost said. “There was cost for cleanup and the investigation.”

He added that the company could be in violation of the city’s pretreatment ordinance, as well as state and federal regulations.

The city’s wastewater plant uses a bacterial digestion to consume waste.

The chemical had the potential to kill off all of the bacteria at the plant. If that would have occurred, the plant would have been “reseeded” with new bacteria.

At the plant, enzymes break down the organic matter into water soluble nutrients, which the bacteria digest. Using complex chemical reactions, the organic waste is metabolized down to water and carbon dioxide.

Eventually the treated wastewater is put back into the ecosystem.