Agreement to Improve Kansas Sewer, Storm Water Systems

Settlement will reduce raw sewage overflows and storm water flooding

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice announced that the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan., has agreed to a settlement to address unauthorized overflows of untreated raw sewage and to reduce pollution levels in urban storm water.

The settlement, lodged March 21, 2013 in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan., requires the Unified Government to implement improved operation and maintenance programs for its sewer system, perform initial work to address sewer overflows and implement an improved Storm Water Management Plan. The Unified Government will also develop a proposed overflow control plan for the sewer system by September 2016 for approval by EPA. Unified Government’s implementation of that plan, once approved, will be embodied in a subsequent judicial settlement.

“The settlement allows the Unified Government to tackle their most important water quality problems first, while preparing a long-term approach to keep local waterways protected in the future,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance

The Unified Government’s sewer system collects and receives domestic, commercial and industrial wastewater from approximately 110,000 area residents. The system includes five wastewater treatment plants and more than 800 miles of sewer lines. About one-third of the system is served by combined sewers, which carry both storm water and wastewater, and the remainder by separated sewers.

Since 2004, the Unified Government has reported more than 450 illegal sewer overflows from its sewer system. These overflows resulted in the discharge of raw sewage into the Missouri and Kansas rivers and their tributaries. Untreated sewage from overflows can cause serious water quality problems and health issues from pollutants including harmful bacteria, oxygen-depleting substances, suspended solids, toxic metals and chemicals, and nutrients. The overflows are in violation of the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) and the terms of the city’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits for operation of its sewer system.

Under the agreement, the Unified Government is required to perform initial work primarily in the combined sewer portion of the system, located in the oldest developed area of the city, which is expected to provide relief to residences and other properties in the urban core that are often impacted by overflows.

The settlement also requires the Unified Government to implement an improved Storm Water Management Plan, designed to reduce pollutants in storm water. Municipal storm water sewers carry significant amounts of pollution into urban rivers, lakes and streams. Pollutants such as lead, copper, oxygen-depleting materials and sediment in municipal storm water can clog streams, harm or kill aquatic life, and result in human exposure to harmful substances. 

A copy of the consent decree is available on the Justice Department website.

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