The U.S. EPA, the U.S. Department of Justice, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and the City of Sandy have agreed on a set of measures the city will undertake to stem the city’s alleged violations of the Clean Water Act, including significantly limiting new sewer connections and upgrading its aging wastewater treatment system.
The consent decree settles alleged violations of the Clean Water Act that date back to 2017 when DEQ found that discharges from the city’s wastewater treatment plant were regularly exceeding permitted levels and polluting Tickle Creek and the Clackamas River. As part of the agreement, Sandy must complete a set of improvements to the wastewater treatment plant by October 31, 2023, that will improve reliability and capacity.
Additionally, the city must continue with its Sewer Assessment and Rehabilitation Program to reduce the amount of rain and groundwater that enters the collection system. The investigation portion of the project must be completed by December 31, 2025, and all identified corrective measures within the sewer system must be completed within 10 years.
The city agreed to pay $500,000 in civil penalties for violations of its water quality permit – $250,000 to the U.S. Treasury and $250,000 to Oregon.
“I’m proud that we were able to come together to resolve an issue in a way that protects the environment and people’s health and holds the City of Sandy accountable, while also addressing the needs of a growing community,” said DEQ Director Leah Feldon. “The Clackamas River is an Oregon gem, and this agreement will help ensure it runs clear and cold for generations to come.”
The City of Sandy operates a wastewater treatment plant to treat domestic wastewater. The plant operates under a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit to discharge to Tickle Creek, a tributary of the Clackamas River. Sandy has reported hundreds of violations of permit limits since 2017.
The consent decree is currently available for public review and comment before it is effective, under justice.gov. The deadline to submit public comments is August 10, 2023.
Under the terms of the consent decree Sandy must:
Pay a $250,000 civil penalty to the U.S. within 30 days of the effective date of the consent decree. The city also must pay Oregon $24,300 owed from a previous penalty within 30 days and an additional $250,000 penalty. The Oregon penalty may be reduced to $50,000 if the city completes a Supplemental Environmental Project worth $200,000 by December 31, 2028.
Continue with its Sewer Assessment and Rehabilitation program to reduce the amount of rain and groundwater that enters the collection system.
Develop and implement a capacity, management, operation, and maintenance (“CMOM”) program designed to ensure the collection system provides a high level of service to customers and reduces regulatory noncompliance.
Complete preliminary design improvements by October 31, 2023. This is a set of improvements to the treatment plant identified in a report prepared for Sandy to improve reliability and increase capacity.
Submit an Amended Wastewater Facilities Plan to bring the city into compliance with its water quality permit and keep the city in compliance in the future. The schedule for final completion of all work under the plan shall be as expeditious as possible, but no longer than 15 years from the date EPA and DEQ approve the plan.
Implement a Capacity Assurance Program that will limit new connections to Sandy’s sewer system until the city has demonstrated that adequate capacity exists in the system.
Every six months, submit a report describing progress that meets the above requirements.