Under fire for a lack of meaningful action by past student victims of alleged sexual assaults and rapes by classmates over nearly two decades, Christendom College’s administration now finds itself under scrutiny from a different direction. Royal Examiner has received a copy of a complaint sent to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) alleging a failing wastewater system that has been dumping into a nearby creek feeding into the Shenandoah River for an unknown amount of time.
A passage from the April 6 e-mail to DEQ states that, “Christendom is located right on the Shenandoah River. Their wastewater system is leaking into the river. I urge your office to look into this environmental matter for the protection and preservation of our waterways … The overflow (there’s a lot) goes straight into the creek/river … The wastewater system is very badly in need of upgrading and/or enlarging … it is nowhere near able to handle the volume of water the students use.”
The sender of the complaint said she was approached about the college’s wastewater problem after her name became known as part of the support group – the Christendom Advocacy Support Coalition (CASC) – for student and alumni sexual assault victims. However, she asked to remain anonymous for this story, a request we will honor.
Royal Examiner contacted Christendom’s Public Relations Director Zachary Smith on April 13 seeking an administrative response to the allegations made to DEQ. Smith replied there would be no comment from the school at this time. A second request for comment on April 25 was not responded to by publication.
However, DEQ Valley Office Regional Water Permits & Compliance Manager Brandon D. Kiracofe did confirm receipt of the complaint and a subsequent investigation of the college’s wastewater treatment system conducted on April 11. In the wake of the inspection a “Warning Letter” and “Request for Corrective Action” was sent to Christendom Vice President for Operations Mike Foeckler on April 16.
“The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ or the Department) has reason to believe that Christendom Educational Corporation may be in violation of the State Water Control Law and Regulations at Christendom College STP (Sewage Treatment Plant),” Kiracofe writes in presenting DEQ’s findings to the college.
“Please review the enclosed report, and in accordance with (Christendom permit number) submit in writing adequate documentation to address the requests for corrective action specified in the report by May 7, 2018. If corrective action will take longer than 90 days to complete, you may be asked to sign a Letter of Agreement or enter into a Consent Order with the Department to formalize the plan and schedule,” the “Future Actions” section of the report states.
There are eight points of correction listed that DEQ asks to be addressed or scheduled for repair by May 7. Contacted by phone Kiracofe summarized the findings as primarily involving “biomass” solids from the treatment process being dumped into the referenced creek which Christendom does have a permit to dump properly-treated wastewater into.
“We did find solids from the process in the creek – it’s not raw sewage but points to how solids are handled in the system,” Kiracofe said. Asked if he could elaborate on the relative pollutant factor of raw sewage versus the type of treatment biomass byproduct he described, Kiracofe said, “From our perspective both are bad.”
However, he added that unlike raw sewage, the treatment biomass has gone through a chlorination process, so has received some degree of disinfection.
The “Inspection Overview and Condition of Treatment Units” section of the report states, “The operations log documents solids handling concerns. The clarifier skimmer and the sludge return lines clog up frequently and floating solids occur on the clarifier. The chlorine contact tank is pumped out frequently to remove settled solids. One comment in the operations logbook is that the operator believes the STP is organically overloaded. A sludge bank is present in the receiving stream.”
We asked Kiracofe if the sludge bank could be used to estimate how long the problem with the Christendom wastewater treatment system has existed. “It could be an extended time or it could be shorter – it is really difficult to make such an estimate,” he replied.
The report notes that Christendom’s “single train package plant was installed in 1985”. Of Christendom’s initial response the report states, “According to the facility, the STP has suffered from high influent grease amounts. IES (system operator Inboden Environmental Services of Mt. Jackson) and Mr. Foeckler state that the company pumping out the grease traps at the food service building has not been pumping the two 1,500-gallon tanks out adequately leaving grease in the tanks after pumping. The facility is having the pumping company more completely clean out the grease traps, and the facility is anticipating potential alleviation of STP grease loading concerns.
Relevant points in the “Request for Corrective Action” are:
- Restore flow proportioning of the chlorination system …;
- Improve solids handling capability at the STP to prevent solids accumulation in the receiving stream …;
- Note in the foam and floating solids log the discharge of floating solids beyond a trace…;
- Dispose of solids removed in the course of treatment or management of pollutants in a manner so as to prevent any pollutant from such materials from entering State waters. This is with respect to frequency of solids removal, proper grease removal, and correction of clogging skimmer and return lines.
Other points involve maintenance of three years of permit-required records on the system’s operation for DEQ inspection; updating the “O&M” (operating and maintenance) manual; repairs and regular testing of the alarm system; and paint and repair of corroding parts of the system.
National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day – Flags to be flown half-staff
This December 7, we remember the world-changing event known as Pearl Harbor Day, or as President Franklin D. Roosevelt said in his December 8, 1941 speech declaring war on Japan, “a date which will live in infamy.”
Early on Wednesday morning, December 7, 2022, many will gather at Pearl Harbor National Memorial for the 81st Commemoration. The early start marks the moment to the minute 81 years ago when Japanese warplanes descended on Oahu, killing 2,403 service members and civilians, injuring thousands more, and dealing a near-fatal blow to the Navy’s fleet at Pearl Harbor.
Most young Americans who died that day, along with those who served in uniform during World War II or on the home front war effort, are collectively known as the Greatest Generation. Their sacrifices reflect the theme of this year’s Commemoration: Everlasting Legacy.
The focus is the importance of remembering Pearl Harbor and how the Greatest Generation saved us from tyranny and brought us peace through reconciliation.
Governor’s Order for the Commonwealth of Virginia
In accordance with the authority vested in me as Governor, I hereby order that the flags of the United States of America and the Commonwealth of Virginia to be flown at half-staff at all local, state, and federal buildings and grounds in the Commonwealth in solemn respect and memory for the nearly 4,000 American service men and women killed or wounded in the early morning of December 7, 1941, at the United States Navy Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
I hereby order that the flag shall be lowered at sunrise on Wednesday, December 7, 2022, and remain at half-staff until sunset.
Ordered on this, the 6th day of December 2022.
Blue Ridge Wildlife Center Patient of the Week: American Goldfinch
These two American Goldfinches hit the same window at the same time and ended up here at the Center for care.
Though both are currently having breathing difficulty, and the male has significant head trauma with bleeding from the left ear, neither sustained any fractures. They are recovering together while they receive supplemental oxygen and pain medications.
Do you know what to do if a bird hits your window?
Though it was once standard to contain a window strike bird and let it rest for a few hours before attempting release, research has now shown that this is inadequate. Many of the issues we see with window strikes manifest 24+ hours after the strike, long after the bird can fly off.
If you see a bird hit a window, contain it right away and call the closest permitted rehabilitator. Do not release it! In the meantime, take steps to break up the reflections on your windows with tape, paint, or decals spaced no more than 2” apart. Prevention is better than treatment!
A new record!
Yesterday we surpassed last year’s intake number with this window strike pair. We are hopeful that they will soon be released together to enjoy the rest of their wild lives!
If you are looking for an easy way to help native wildlife become a monthly BRWC donor! For as little as $5/month, you can provide year-round, sustainable support that helps us fulfill our mission.
Local grandma steps out of shower, holds intruder at gunpoint until police arrive
A Warren County family had an exciting Monday morning after the family’s matriarch thwarted an intruder who may have intended to steal a family vehicle.
Tricia Montoney told Royal Examiner Monday evening that an eagle-eyed neighbor noticed a man in the family’s driveway, around 7 a.m. standing beside a Ford F-150 pickup truck belonging to Tricia’s daughter, Rachel Montoney.
Rachel said in a phone interview that “once our neighbor told me about the man attempting to enter my vehicle, I ran to get my mom.”
Tricia was in the shower but quickly put on a robe and grabbed the Smith and Wesson 9 mm handgun she keeps for personal protection. She then went outside to confront the intruder. By then, she said, the man was sitting inside the pickup with the door closed.
Rachel says her mom yelled to the intruder, “What are you doing? Get out of the truck and on your knees!” The man, later identified by arresting officers as Larry Huyser, exited the truck and complied with Tricia’s instructions while a neighbor called 9-1-1.
Huyser, who was dressed in a fluorescent green sweatshirt, jeans, and a black hat, said that he had gotten into the unlocked truck “because I was cold.”
Warren County deputies who arrived on the scene found Tricia holding Huyser at gunpoint. He was taken into custody without incident.
Huyser was booked into the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail (RSW) and charged with vandalism, damaging property, tampering and entering a vehicle, and breaking and entering an auto.
He is being held without bond. Online court records show that Huyser has been arrested before for similar offenses.
Both Tricia and Rachel expressed their gratitude for their neighbor and his assistance in contacting the police and for staying with Tricia as she held the intruder at gunpoint.
The Montoneys also appreciated the deputies, who arrived quickly and transported the intruder to RSW.
Asked if she would now lock her truck at night, Rachel said, “Absolutely!”
Both ladies expressed their gratitude that no one was injured and said they were especially grateful for their close friendship with their neighbors. “We take care of each other out here,” Tricia said.
Congressman Ben Cline holds Town Hall meeting in Warren County
Residents of Warren County were invited to a town hall event with Congressman Ben Cline (VA-06) on December 5, 2022. This town hall event was an opportunity for residents of Warren County to engage in a dialogue with Rep. Cline about important issues in Virginia’s Sixth Congressional District.
Watch the Town Hall meeting on this exclusive Royal Examiner video.
Frederick County Sheriff’s Office deputies help rescue horse after fall into pool
On December 2, 2022, Frederick County Sheriff’s Office Deputy’s responded to a residence on Green Springs Rd. in Frederick County. This was regarding an 1800-pound draft horse that fell into a swimming pool. Once on the scene Deputies determined that the horse had knocked over the top rail of the fence around the pool, jumped the fence and walked out onto the nylon pool cover causing the horse to fall into the water. However, its head and part of the body remained above water.
The Draft Horse was in the 9-foot end of the pool. Deputies Cram, ACO Deputy Tasker and Sgt. Hawse started cutting the pool cover away from the horse. Once it was clear of the cover and haltered, the horse was pulled to the shallow end of the pool where it was able to stand and catch its breath. Deputies were able to guide the horse up the stairs to the pool deck and into the yard.
The Veterinarian who handles the horse was called and advised to dry the horse as good as possible, feed it hay and keep it moving. That information was passed on to the owner’s children that arrived on scene. At the time of this email the horse was doing fine.
“You just never know what type of calls we respond to every day. This is one for the books. We are happy that it was witnessed, and we could respond to assist. Deputies were ready to go in the water if needed to make sure the horse stayed above water,” Sheriff Lenny Millholland observed of the incident.
Local doctors take time out to again treat third world country residents of Honduras
For the past 14 years, local Dr. Thomas (call me “Tommy”) Ball has ducked out of Front Royal Family Practice to spend up to two weeks leading a medical team to serve the people of Honduras, one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere.
Dr. Ball – okay, we’ll call him Tommy from here on – has always considered serving the under-served a core mission of his medical practice. For the past 20 years Valley Health has recognized and supported that mission as part of his faculty position at the Shenandoah Valley Family Practice Residency. “Valley Health recognizes that young doctors want to understand Global Health and want to contribute internationally. They allow me to devote time as a teacher to global health issues and they support our work overseas,” he told us.
Medical faculty from around Virginia have formed a nonprofit organization, SAGE (Students And Global Engagement), focused on introducing trainees to a small community in rural Honduras. As Tommy describes it, “We attempt to foster better health among the Hondurans and to expose Americans to the needs people face in a third world setting. It is a two-way street in which both parties benefit.”
SAGE helped build a small mountainside clinic in the village of Pinares, Honduras. They send medical teams for one to two-week stretches three times a year at four-month intervals. The area they serve is approximately the size of Warren County, with similar mountainous terrain. Average take-home pay for the mostly agricultural workers around Pinares is about $3-dollars a day (yes, a day, emphasized Ball).
Medication, some donated by Valley Health, helps patients cope with a variety of diseases including familiar problems such as diabetes, hypertension and arthritis, as well as problems uncommon here such as parasites caused by contaminated water. SAGE tries to go beyond just medication and address the underlying social factors that foster illness. In recent years they have donated monthly food packages to families with young children and filters to improve the safety of drinking water.
This fall the team included Dr. Paulius Mui and Dr. Sean Sutphen from the residency training program and seasoned local physician Dr. Shyama Rosenfeld, as well as support personnel in pharmacy, emergency transport, and anthropology.
Tommy has developed close ties and friendships in the community SAGE serves. He notes that he is older than most volunteers, but hopes he still has a few more years left of visiting and doing his best to improve health conditions in Pinares. “We have the personnel who want to help, but we are always struggling financially,” Tommy said, hoping that local service clubs and other non-profits might see their way to help support SAGE.
If you, the reader, are interested and require additional information, email Tommy at Front Royal Family Practice (email@example.com) or visit the SAGE website (sage-community.com). And yes, you may call him Tommy!