The U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Commonwealth of Kentucky's Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet (EPPC) jointly announced yesterday a comprehensive Clean Water Act settlement with the Louisville and Jefferson County Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD).
The settlement ensures that MSD will make extensive improvements to its sewer systems to eliminate unauthorized discharges of untreated sewage and to address problems of overflows from sewers that carry a combination of untreated sewage and stormwater at a cost likely to exceed $500 million.
Throughout the year, MSD's sewer systems are overwhelmed by rainfall resulting in unlawful discharges of untreated sewage and overflows of combined sewage into the Ohio River and its tributaries totaling billions of gallons each year.
The Commonwealth filed a civil suit against MSD in state court in February, 2004 and has been negotiating since that time with MSD to reach an agreement. A consent decree, filed today in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky in Louisville, represents the combined efforts of both the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the United States, which have entered into this settlement as plaintiff and intervening plaintiff, respectively.
The consent decree will require MSD to: propose and implement specific corrective action plans to bring overflows from its combined sewers that carry a combination of both untreated sewage and stormwater into compliance with water quality standards; propose and implement specific corrective action plans to eliminate unauthorized discharges from its sanitary sewers that carry just untreated sewage (the worst discharges, representing approximately 75 percent of the total, must be addressed by no later than 2013); improve its management, operation and maintenance programs to prevent future overflows; and respond to overflows when they occur.
MSD was created to provide sanitary sewer and stormwater drainage service for residential, commercial, and industrial entities throughout the City of Louisville and Jefferson County, Kentucky. It is responsible for the operation and maintenance of six major regional wastewater treatment facilities, 21 minor treatment plants, and approximately 3,000 miles of sewer lines.
The consent decree also requires MSD to pay a civil penalty of $1 million to the Commonwealth of Kentucky and, under Commonwealth supervision, perform $2.25 million in Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs). The purposes of the SEPs are to provide public health screenings for residents of neighborhoods adjacent to the industrialized
areas of the western portion of Louisville; perform, or provide funding for groups that will perform, efforts to raise environmental awareness and stewardship for the local and regional community; and convert and reclaim the former Lee's Lane Landfill into an area for public use.
In the past, the United States has reached similar agreements with numerous municipal entities across the country including Mobile; Jefferson County (Birmingham), Alabama; Atlanta; Knoxville; Miami; New Orleans; Toledo; Hamilton County (Cincinnati), Ohio; Baltimore; and Los Angeles.
The proposed consent decree with MSD is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval before becoming effective.