Iowa Town Agrees to Address Discharges of Untreated Sewage to Mississippi River

Jan. 6, 2011
City of Keokuk must submit long-term plan on improving sewer system

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 7 and the city of Keokuk, Iowa, have reached an agreement by which the city will improve its combined sewer system over the next 20 years, reducing discharges of hundreds of millions of gallons of raw sewage to the Mississippi River and its tributaries.

Under an administrative compliance order on consent, filed in Kansas City, Kan., Keokuk will submit to EPA and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) a long-term control plan for improving its sewers to reduce overflows. The plan is due no later than Dec. 31, 2012.

Once approved by EPA and IDNR, Keokuk must complete the implementation of all terms of the order, including requirements related to the long-term control plan, no later than Dec. 31, 2030.

"This resolution will clean the water that sustains Keokuk's future and produce real benefits for everyone who depends on the nation's most important river, the great Mississippi,” EPA Regional Administrator Karl Brooks said. “I commend the people of Keokuk, and their leaders, for taking measurable action that secures the future of their key water resource and recognizes our obligations today to make water system investments for the future."

Keokuk was required to develop a long-term control plan in 2002, when IDNR issued the city a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. Keokuk submitted a draft plan in 2006, but it failed to include dates for implementation and completion. EPA has been working with city officials in Keokuk to approve a plan since 2007.

An inspection by EPA in late November and early December 2010 found that Keokuk had violated conditions of its NPDES permit by failing to operate and maintain its wastewater treatment facilities in good working order, allowing for overflows of raw sewage from the collection system to waters of the U.S. and private property, and the diversion of waste streams from its wastewater treatment works into the waters of the U.S.

Since 2006, Keokuk has proceeded to complete several sewer separation projects without a final approved long-term control plan. Those projects include the elimination of one outfall, the replacement of the Bank Street lift station and force main, the completion of sewer separation associated with the Grand Avenue and Boulevard Road project, and completion of a sewer separation project for Belknap Place, Belknap Boulevard and McKinley and Timea streets, at a combined cost of more than $2 million.

Initial projections by the city of Keokuk to implement the long-term control plan are estimated to be between $60 million and $100 million for total separation of the combined sewer system.

Source: U.S. EPA

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