Jan 02, 2008

Fort Wayne, Ind., to Make $250 Million in Improvements to Sewer System

Settlement expected to reduce harmful discharges by 900 million gal annually

The city of Fort Wayne, Ind., has agreed to make an estimated $250 million worth of improvements to resolve longstanding problems with overflows from its sewer system, the Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Dec. 28.

The city's sewer system, which serves approximately 220,000 people, transports the city's sewage for treatment at a wastewater treatment plant before discharging it into area rivers and streams. Overflows from the city's collection system discharge raw sewage directly into rivers and streams and can be a major source of water pollution. Fort Wayne's overflows currently number approximately 60 per year.

The improvements to the city's sewer system, to be implemented under the consent decree, will reduce the number of overflows to approximately one per year on the St. Joseph River and four per year on the St. Mary's and Maumee Rivers. The city also will pay a penalty of $538,380, which will be divided evenly between the U.S. and the state of Indiana. The city also has agreed to spend $400,000 on a supplemental environmental project to eliminate failing septic systems, and the portion of the penalty to be paid to the state can be reduced by undertaking further reductions in the number of failing septic systems.

All of the improvements to be made under the consent decree will provide major public health and environmental benefits. The injunctive relief provided under the settlement will reduce the volume of Fort Wayne's untreated combined sewer overflow discharges by 900 million gal in an average year.

"With today's consent decree, the city of Fort Wayne is taking an important step toward complying with the Clean Water Act," said Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division Ronald J. Tenpas. "We are pleased that we have reached a resolution to these matters, and that the city has agreed to make the necessary improvements and committed funds to ensure significant improvements to reduce untreated sewer discharges."

"EPA is very pleased that in this agreement Fort Wayne has committed to getting rid of longstanding sewerage problems," said EPA Regional Administrator Mary A. Gade. "The city is making a major investment in improvements to its sewerage system that will pay off in better protection of public health and cleaner rivers. The St. Joseph, St. Mary's and Maumee Rivers in particular will benefit from the new controls."

The Justice Department has alleged that these discharges violate the Clean Water Act because they exceed limitations and conditions in the city's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits or are otherwise unpermitted. Further, the Department has alleged a number of other violations by Fort Wayne, including the failure to comply with monitoring and reporting requirements of its permit and the failure to meet effluent limitations at the pipe leading from the city's wastewater treatment plant.

The consent decree was lodged in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana. The consent decree will be subject to a 30-day public comment period and subsequent judicial approval. It is available on the Justice Department website at http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.