The Fayette Citizen-News Page
Friday, November 27, 1998
Sandy Creek sewer field to be fenced

Staff Writer

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Plans are in place to erect a fence around the Fayette County School System's sewer facility serving the Sandy Creek school complex following a state advisory that warns against letting students jog in the facility's spray field.

"We are seeking proposals to fence the entire area," said school superintendent Dr. Dave Brotherton this week.

State Environmental Protection Division officials have advised Fayette County school officials twice in the last two years to stop allowing students to practice for cross country track using spray fields of the sewer system, saying that running in the spray fields could pose a health risk.

Dr. Charles Warr, Sandy Creek High School principal, said he has only recently been made aware of complaints that students were doing so. "When they run on the course, as far as I know they stay on the course," said Warr, adding that the school's state-certified cross country course stops at the edge of the sewer spray fields. "Since there have been questions, we're looking at it closer, and have curtailed any use of the area at this point."

Brotherton said Tuesday that students may be straying from the course during practice, and a fence will prevent that and will stop others who may walk or jog in the area on nights and weekends.

Modern sewer systems dispose of treated sewage by spraying it over wooded land, so that nutrients in the sewage fertilize the vegetation rather than being dumped into streams and causing pollution problems. The EPD in recent years has adopted a policy of approving only land treatment systems, refusing any new permits to discharge effluent into streams.

Sandy Creek's spray fields are not fenced, said Brotherton, a fact that had not seemed a problem until he got a letter from EPD in October, he said. EPD officials wrote to the school system in March 1997, and a second time to Brotherton Oct. 22, 1998. A routine inspection conducted Oct. 9 revealed "athletic activities using the spray fields as a training area," James Elliott of EPD's water quality inspection division wrote to Brotherton. Writing to the system in 1997, Bryan Boutelle of the same EPD unit made reference to the same complaint, and said, "Based on your permits, you are advised that it could pose a health risk to allow recreational activities to occur in the spray field area. You are advised to cease athletic activities using the spray field."

Brotherton said he had not seen the 1997 letter, and when the Oct. 22 letter arrived his office contacted EPD. "We had only one more [track] meet scheduled in the 1998 season, and the people we talked to at EPD indicated that as long as the sprinkler heads were not spraying, and as long as the ground was dry, there would not be any health risk if we went ahead with that meet," he said.

"That ended up the cross country season and we immediately shut down the course," he said. "Now we'll fence it in and post it so we don't get involved with students running through there or any others who might come in on nights and weekends," he added.

And if necessary, he added, before the next cross country track season begins, "We'll find a new place to run."

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