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The Justice Department, the Environmental Protection Agency and the State of Ohio has announced a settlement with the City of Youngstown that will reduce and perhaps eliminate long-standing and significant raw sewage discharges from its combined sewer system. Under the settlement, the City estimates that it will spend $12 million in short-term improvements over the next six years and $100 million over the next two decades to develop and implement a long-term sewage discharge control plan. This agreement will likely eliminate over 800 million gallons of wet weather sewage discharges annually.
Combined sewer systems carry sanitary sewage, wastewater and storm water runoff from rainfall or snowmelt in a single system of pipes to a publicly owned treatment works. When heavy rainfall or snowmelt reaches combined systems, total wastewater flow can exceed the capacity, resulting in the overflow of raw sewage directly to nearby streams, rivers or other water bodies.
The untreated discharges -- combined sewer overflows (CSOs) -- can contaminate waters with bacteria, pathogens and other harmful pollutants, causing serious water quality problems and thereby threaten public health.
"The improvements Youngstown will make to its sewage system resulting from this settlement will go a long way to protecting human health and the environment throughout the City and Mahoning and Trumbull counties," said Tom Sansonetti, Assistant Attorney General DOJ's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "This joint settlement reflects the effectiveness of federal-state partnerships in addressing CSO violations."
"Close cooperation between EPA, the Department of Justice and the State of Ohio has resulted in a settlement that will significantly benefit the environment," said EPA Regional Administrator Thomas Skinner. "Controlling discharges of raw sewage will have an immediate positive impact on the Mahoning River, but the heart of the agreement is the long-term control plan that will play a major role in restoring the waterway."
The settlement ensures that the City will eliminate the discharge of raw sewage during dry weather. It also makes important progress toward controlling Youngstown's combined sewer overflows. In addition, Youngstown will pay a total civil penalty of $60,000 for its past violations, which will be split evenly between the United States and the State of Ohio.
Specifically, the settlement puts Youngstown on an enforceable schedule to eliminate direct discharges of raw sewage, eliminate a sewer overflow at Orchard Meadow near Mill Creek Park's Lily Pond, replace two pump stations and make significant improvements to operation and maintenance of the sewer system. The settlement also requires the City to develop and implement a long-term control plan to reduce or eliminate wet weather discharges from its combined sewer system, which will require several major construction projects over the next 20 years.
"This agreement reflects a joint effort to correct a long-standing problem," Ohio Attorney General Betty D. Montgomery said. "We applaud the city's willingness to commit to a long-term solution that will benefit the health and safety of the citizens of Youngstown."
"For years, Youngstown has struggled to address environmentally damaging sewer overflows," said Ohio EPA Director Christopher Jones. "This settlement will change that course, as a result of a cooperative effort between state, local and federal agencies to clean Youngstown's waterways."
The Justice Department and the federal EPA, often joined by the States, are taking an active lead in municipal CWA enforcement across the country and have already entered into settlements with numerous municipalities, including Atlanta, Baton Rouge, Boston, Cincinnati and Hamilton County, Honolulu, Jefferson County, Ala., Miami, Mobile, Ala., New Orleans, San Diego.
The settlement was lodged in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Ohio in Akron and is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.