WASHINGTON – The city of Toledo, Ohio, has agreed to make extensive improvements to its sewer system that will significantly reduce the city’s longstanding sewage overflows into Swan Creek and the Maumee and Ottawa Rivers, the city’s main waterways, the Department of Justice, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the state of Ohio announced today.
The Clean Water Act settlement lodged today in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, modifies a 2002 agreement between the United States, state of Ohio and city of Toledo. The 2002 agreement required that Toledo greatly expand its treatment plant and build a large storage basin to capture stormwater combined with sewage during high flows for later treatment. The parties understood that although the improvements were important, they were only the first phase of the work needed to bring Toledo into compliance with the Clean Water Act. Therefore, the 2002 agreement also required Toledo to conduct a detailed study of the combined portions of its sewer system and propose a plan of additional measures to eliminate or substantially reduce wet weather discharges from Toledo’s combined sewers. Today’s agreement requires the city to implement this plan, which both the U.S. EPA and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) have now approved.
Under the amended agreement filed today in federal court, Toledo has agreed to expand its sewer system far beyond what it originally proposed to the U.S. EPA and Ohio EPA at a cost estimated at more than $315 million. Once the sewer system expansion is fully constructed as required by the amended agreement, Toledo will reduce its discharges of untreated combined sewage from an average of 35 times in a year to an average of zero to four times per year, depending upon the watershed.
The amended agreement relieves Toledo from having to build certain additional equipment at its wastewater treatment plant as required by the 2002 agreement. Given Toledo’s improved plant capacity and operational procedures, the additional equipment would provide less additional treatment capacity and environmental benefit than what will result from the enhanced combined sewer overflow control measures required by today’s agreement.
"This settlement will serve the citizens of Toledo and will result in dramatic improvements to the conditions of the Maumee River, Ottawa River and Swan Creek – meaning safer recreational use and a much healthier environment for aquatic life," said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. "The Department of Justice will ensure that the standards of the Clean Water Act are met and that serious community issues like sewage overflows are addressed."
"The Environmental Protection Agency is committed to enforcing laws that protect the public from exposure to discharges of raw sewage. This agreement shows that when vigorous enforcement is combined with creative and determined negotiation, municipalities, the United States and states can find workable solutions to improving sewer systems that are inadequate for modern needs," said Susan Hedman, Regional Administrator for EPA Region 5.
The modified settlement lodged today, as the First Amendment to Consent Decree in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court. A copy of the First Amendment is available on the Justice Department website at www.justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html .