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The city of Dallas has reached an agreement with the federal government requiring the city to spend in excess of $3.5 million in a comprehensive effort to decrease the amount of pollution entering the city’s storm water system, the Department of Justice and U.S. EPA announced. The settlement requires the city to construct two wetlands at an estimated cost of $1.2 million—one along the Trinity River, and one along Cedar Creek near the Dallas Zoo—and to pay a civil penalty of $800,000.
The settlement resolves allegations, first made by the federal government in an EPA order issued in February 2004, that the city failed to implement, adequately fund and adequately staff the city’s storm water management program. Under the agreement, the city is required to fill staff positions, inspect hundreds of industrial facilities and construction sites, and improve management systems at several facilities.
“We are pleased to conclude this matter with a settlement that will result in vigorous city efforts to keep the city’s storm water compliant with applicable law,” said Sue Ellen Wooldridge, assistant attorney general of the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “We expect all cities to comply with the storm water requirements of the Clean Water Act.”
“This settlement benefits everyone in Dallas by helping to keep the city’s rivers, lakes and streams clean. I am particularly pleased that we and the city were able to resolve this matter in a way that improves our urban environment by building water-purifying wetlands along the Trinity River and at the zoo,” said Richard Greene, regional administrator of U.S. EPA Region 6 in Dallas.
The settlement requires the city to have at least 36 people working in the city’s storm water management section, a 25% increase over the number of people on staff when EPA issued its order. The consent decree also requires the city to inspect at least 500 storm water discharge pipes per year, 500 industrial facilities each year and large construction sites every two weeks. Pursuant to the settlement, the city will prepare a formal environmental management system for 12 city-run facilities, including the city’s service centers, and then have a third-party auditor review the management systems. EPA plans to conduct a full audit of the storm water system within the next one to three years.
The first wetland the city will construct will be a 60-acre or larger area along the Trinity River downstream of Sylvan Ave., in the vicinity of the Pavaho pump station. Currently, the city pumps storm water directly from the sump to the Trinity River. This project will use the storm water to water a wetland that will provide urban green space and filter impurities out of the storm water before it is reaches the Trinity. Before beginning construction, the city is required to submit a detailed design plan for the wetland to be reviewed by the EPA.
The second wetland will be a small wetland along Cedar Creek near the Dallas Zoo. The wetland will be the last in a series of treatment steps designed to treat runoff from a portion of the Dallas Zoo. The system will be designed so that water emerging from the wetland can be returned to the zoo for use in drip irrigation. As with the wetland along the Trinity River, a detailed design plan must be approved by the EPA before work begins.
Richard B. Roper, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Texas, said, “I applaud the officials of the city of Dallas in acting with the Department of Justice and the EPA to insure that the citizens of Dallas can enjoy the cleanest possible rivers, lakes and streams.”