Dec 30, 2021

Federal-State Clean Water Act Settlement Resolves Sewer Overflow Violations in Bucks County, Pennsylvania

The Authority will pay a $450,000 penalty and must provide substantial resources to evaluate and upgrade its sewer systems.

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The U.S. and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), filed a civil lawsuit against the Bucks County Water and Sewer Authority. 

The lawsuit alleges violations of the federal Clean Water Act and Pennsylvania Clean Steams Law, with most of the violations consisting of sanitary sewer overflows and operation and maintenance violations under its state-issued permits, reported The Department of Justice.

According to DOJ, at the same time the civil suit was filed, the U.S. and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania also filed a proposed consent decree to resolve the lawsuit, subject to the district court’s approval of course. The Authority will pay a $450,000 penalty and must provide substantial resources to evaluate and upgrade its sewer systems.

“The consent decree will mean less sewage in streets, basements, and waterways to improve the lives of citizens in Bucks County,” said U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, reported DOJ. “We thank the Authority for working cooperatively to reach this resolution that will surely improve public health and environmental quality.”

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The Authority owns and operates hundreds of miles of sewer pipes, associated treatment plants and wastewater collection and conveyance systems. Its service areas have historically faced sanitary sewer overflows, with over 100 occurring in Plumstead Township since 2014. 

The Authority must also reexamine its collection system and reach compliance with the federal and state requirements. These requirements includ: monitoring water flow; modeling the collection system; conducting inflow and infiltration evaluations; identifying and remedying hydraulic capacity limitations; addressing illegal sewer connections; and improving its overall operation and maintenance program.

“We’re pleased that the water and sewer authority has agreed to take extensive steps to upgrade and improve sewer systems for Bucks County, particularly the Plumstead area,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The federal Clean Water Act requires communities to eliminate or reduce their sewage overflows into the nation’s rivers, lakes, and oceans. Today’s agreement furthers that and will result in a cleaner, safer Delaware River.” 

The Authority cooperated with the investigation, added DOJ and as part of the settlement did not admit liability for the alleged violations.

The consent decree will be available for viewing here.

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