Tennessee Clean Water Network
625 Market St.
Knoxville, TN 37902
PO BOX 1521
Knoxville, TN 37902
For Immediate Release: July 17, 2012
Contact: Renée Victoria Hoyos – 865.522.7007 x100
Tennessee Clean Water Network settles with the City of Chattanooga over Sanitary Sewer Overflows
Chattanooga TN –
The Tennessee Clean Water Network (TCWN), United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) settled today with the City of Chattanooga (the City) to fix sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs), particularly large volume discharges from the West Bank and East Bank outfalls, and other alleged discharge violations. To read the consent decree, click here for the consent decree and here for the appendices.
According to Renée Victoria Hoyos, TCWN’s Executive Director, “This mutual partnership between EPA, the State, TCWN and Chattanooga will help protect the health of the Tennessee River and its tributaries, and the people who use and enjoy them. We applaud the City for its commitment to environmental stewardship.”
“The Consent Decree calls for a comprehensive fix to the City’s entire sewer system, which will result in a substantial improvement in water quality over time,” said TCWN Staff Attorney Stephanie Matheny. The Consent Decree will be implemented in two phases. During the first phase – which lasts five years – the City will focus on the high priority projects (the Early Action Capital Projects listed in Appendix C) it has identified as causing the bulk of the alleged permit violations. The City will also develop and implement a Phase I sewer repair program that will rehabilitate approximately 15% of the sewershed in areas with streams polluted by pathogens typically found in sewage. These improvements are expected to eliminate discharges from the West Bank and East Bank outfalls and reduce SSOs. In the second phase, the City will develop and implement a full suite of additional plans designed to improve operation and maintenance of its sewer system.
The settlement will require the City to complete the process of bringing its combined sewer system up to current federal standards. Chattanooga’s combined sewer system – which includes most of the downtown area - provides the benefit of treating stormwater at Moccasin Bend under typical rain conditions, but also creates the potential of overwhelming the sewage system when there is heavy rain. When that happens, the City discharges partially treated – but not disinfected – combined stormwater and sewage from combined sewer outfalls to the Tennessee River and Chattanooga Creek. Under the terms of the settlement, this City will develop a Long-Term Control Plan to better manage these discharges. The Consent Decree also requires the City to address the Central Avenue and William Street CSO outfalls. These outfalls discharge to Chattanooga Creek, which is listed by TDEC as impaired for E. coli and low dissolved oxygen.
“While some might have preferred that the City separate its entire sewer system, that simply is not practical from a cost standpoint, and it is not required for water quality,” said Stephanie Matheny. “This Consent Decree recognizes that the City has made substantial investments in improving its combined sewer outfalls in recent decades, and will require the City to make the additional improvements required to fully protect our streams and rivers.”
The Consent Decree requires the City of Chattanooga to: pay a $238,200 civil penalty to the United States; implement an approximately $800,000 supplemental environmental project to restore a tributary of South Chickamauga Creek in lieu of additional federal penalties; and implement an approximately $238,200 Highland Park Green Infrastructure Project in lieu of state penalties. By electing to implement these environmental projects, the City has ensured that its residents will benefit from what would otherwise have been paid in penalties.
The public will have 30 days to review the Consent Decree. USEPA will also provide documents on its website during the public comment period. The City of Chattanooga will post all documents related to the settlement in a document repository on its website, which it will maintain throughout the life of the Consent Decree. The City will also encourage community input over time through its Wastewater Regulations and Appeals Board.
“TCWN encourages local residents to get involved and stay involved. There is a lot of work to be done, and local input is critical to ensuring it is done right,” said Renée Hoyos.
This case began in 2010 after TCWN discovered that the City had reported 32 unpermitted discharges totaling at least 319 million gallons of raw sewage mixed with stormwater from the West Bank and East Bank outfalls directly to the Tennessee River in the previous four years. TCWN also identified 489 additional SSOs totaling nearly 35 million gallons in the same time period, with a trend toward increasing numbers of SSOs over time. TCWN also found dry weather combined sewer overflows, monitoring and reporting violations, and exceedances of E. coli limits in the discharge from the Moccasin Bend Wastewater Treatment Plant.
As a result, on August 2, 2010, TCWN filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue the City for these and other alleged permit violations and filed their suit on October 13, 2010. USEPA and TDEC then participated with TCWN and the City in the negotiations that led to this settlement.
“The problem of sanitary sewer overflows is not just a Chattanooga problem,” said Ms. Hoyos. “These problems occur throughout Tennessee and the nation. Federal funding for infrastructure improvements has declined in recent years and municipalities have struggled to pay for needed repairs and maintenance. Until we see dedicated funding to maintain our sewage treatment plants, we will continue to have contamination of our streams, rivers, lakes and communities.”
|Chattanooga Appendices FINAL - reduced size.pdf||1.59 MB|
|ChattanoogaDraft_Consent_Decree Final.pdf||1.09 MB|