WASHINGTON—The city of Independence, Mo., has agreed to make major improvements to its sanitary sewer system, at an estimated cost of more than $35 million, to eliminate unauthorized overflows of untreated sewage into the Missouri River each year, the Justice Department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today.
Under the terms of the consent decree, lodged in Kansas City, Mo., Independence will also pay a civil penalty of $255,000 and will spend an additional $450,000 on supplemental environmental projects designed to enhance Missouri River watershed by improving storm waterdetention basins and stabilizing stream banks.
Independence will also be required to perform a comprehensive assessment of the sanitary sewer system, upgrade pump stations, and improve the sewer collection system and wastewater treatment plant. The improvements to the city’s sanitary sewer system will provide major public health and environmental benefits.
A complaint filed concurrently with a consent decree, alleges that Independence had numerous illegal discharges of untreated wastewater containing raw sewage from its sanitary sewer system. The sanitary sewer system transports the city’s sewage to a wastewater treatment plant, which serves approximately 55,000 residential and 3,500 commercial sanitary sewer customers, for treatment prior to discharging it into area rivers and streams. Based on inspections, responses to information requests and the city’s regular reporting activity, EPA was able to document numerous violations of the Clean Water Act, including 430 sanitary sewer overflows resulting in the discharge of millions of gallons of untreated sewage into the Missouri River since October 2000.
"With this settlement, the City of Independence is making a commitment to address its aging sewer system and comply with the Clean Water Act, which will improve water quality in the region," said John C. Cruden, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.
"This is a major step forward by Missouri's fourth-largest city and it will result in some very significant improvements to overall water quality in the Missouri River watershed," said William Rice, Acting Regional Administrator for EPA’s Region 7.
The consent decree was lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri and is subject to a 30-day public comment period and subsequent court approval. A copy of the consent decree is available on the Justice Department Web site at http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.