Evansville agrees to sewer system overhaul - 14 News, WFIE, Evansville, Henderson, Owensboro

Evansville agrees to sewer system overhaul

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Posted by Rich Miller - email

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - The U.S. Justice Department says the City of Evansville has agreed to a sewer system overhaul that could cost more than $500 million.  The deal would resolve allegations made in a lawsuit filed by the United States and Indiana in September 2009 against the city for alleged violations of its Clean Water Act discharge permits.

Evansville's sewer system has a history of maintenance and system capacity problems that result in it being overwhelmed by rainfall, causing it to discharge untreated sewage combined with storm water into the Ohio River.

Under the settlement, the city will improve operation and maintenance, as well as develop and implement a comprehensive plan to increase capacity of its sewer system to minimize, and in many cases, eliminate those overflows. Costs may exceed $500 million. The plan must be fully implemented by calendar year 2032 or 2037, depending on Evansville's financial health.

Additional measures to improve the capacity, management, operation, and maintenance of its separate sanitary sewer system to eliminate overflows of untreated sewage will begin immediately.

In addition, the Deportment of Justice says the city has agreed to take immediate steps to upgrade the treatment capacity of its two wastewater treatment plants. In total, the measures undertaken by the city of Evansville and required by the settlement to help eliminate over four million pounds of pollutants and hundreds of millions of gallons of untreated overflows discharged into the Ohio River and Pigeon Creek every year.

"Evansville's inadequate and aging sanitation infrastructure allows potentially harmful sewage and storm water overflows into the Ohio River," said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice. "As a result of this settlement, Evansville will implement significant measures to achieve the requirements of the Clean Water Act. Like other settlements we have reached in municipalities across the country with outdated sewer systems, this settlement will protect public health and improve the water quality for the local community."

"By reducing the volume of sewage and polluted runoff entering the Ohio River, this settlement will improve water quality and protect the health of people that use the river," said EPA Regional Administrator Susan Hedman. "The comprehensive plan will improve the performance and sustainability of Evansville's sewer system and significantly reduce basement backups and overflows."

In addition to improving its sewer system, Evansville has agreed to pay the U.S. a civil penalty of $420,000 and the state of Indiana a civil penalty of $70,000. Evansville will also implement an environmental project that will connect homes with failing septic systems to the city's sewer system at a cost of more than $4 million. Failing septic systems often contribute significant pollutants that can impair local water quality.

Evansville's sewer system serves a population of approximately 163,000. Thirty-nine percent of Evansville's total sewered area is served by combined sewers while 61 percent is served by separate sanitary sewers. The combined sewers are located in the older, downtown portion of Evansville and lack sufficient capacity to transport all of the combined sewage that it receives to Evansville's two wastewater treatment plants during rainfall. As a result, Evansville commonly discharges the combination of sewage and storm water through one or more of its 22 combined sewer overflow outfalls on the Ohio River and Pigeon Creek.

In the past, the U.S. has reached similar agreements with numerous municipal entities across the country including Jeffersonville, Ind.; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Indianapolis; Nashville, Tenn.; Mobile, Ala.; Jefferson County (Birmingham), Ala.; Atlanta; Knoxville, Tenn.; Miami; New Orleans; Toledo, Ohio; Hamilton County (Cincinnati), Ohio; Baltimore; Los Angeles; Louisville, Ky.; and northern Kentucky's No. 1 Sanitation District.

Once the consent decree is lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, it will be subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court.

A copy of the consent decree will be available on the Justice Department website at www.usdoj.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html

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