The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County (Metro), at a cost of between $300 million and $400 million, has agreed to make extensive improvements to its sewer systems to eliminate unauthorized overflows of untreated raw sewage and to control overflows of combined sewage and storm water under a settlement announced today by the Justice Department, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC).
While Nashville’s aging sewer system still requires significant improvement, Metros efforts to date and their cooperative approach throughout negotiations was instrumental in expediting the resolution of this settlement, said Jimmy Palmer, EPA Regional Administrator in Atlanta. We hope that successful outcomes like this will encourage other wastewater utilities to be proactive when it comes to addressing sewer overflow problems.
According to the investigation, each year Metro has been unlawfully discharging over 200 million gallons of untreated sewage and experiencing overflows of billions of gallons of combined sewage into the Cumberland River and its tributaries. This settlement will lead to the significant reduction of approximately 1.3 million pounds of pollutants per year.
The major features of the consent decree filed today in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee in Nashville, will require Metro to comply with four specific corrective action plans.
Metro must propose and implement specific corrective action plans to bring combined sewer overflows or CSOs, which are overflows of a combination of untreated sewage and storm water from permitted outfall locations, into compliance with water quality standards; it must create and carry out specific corrective action plans to eliminate unauthorized sanitary sewer overflows or SSOs of untreated sewage, the worst of such overflows, representing approximately 50% of the total, occur at certain locations which must be addressed within the next 2 years.
In addition to the required corrective action plans, the consent decree also requires Metro to pay a civil penalty and perform Supplemental Environmental Projects. The United States will be paid a civil penalty in the amount of $282,019. Tennessee will receive a total of $282,019 and has agreed to use this money to fund the Cumberland River Compact, a local environmental group that works to address local water quality problems through pollution prevention, pollution reduction, public health avenues, and environmental education, restoration and protection.
Finally, Metro will also perform two supplemental environmental projects or SEPs at a cost of $2.8 million to extend sewer service to areas currently served only by septic systems, some of which are defective and have negatively affected water quality.