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WASHINGTON, D.C.- The Department of Justice, the Environmental Protection Agency and the state of Ohio today announced the federal court filing of a Clean Water Act settlement in which the city of Toledo, Ohio, agrees to make extensive improvements to its sewage treatment plant and its sewage collection and transportation system. The improvements are expected to cost at least $433 million over the next 14 years.

"This settlement is a great victory for the environment and the public, and it demonstrates that when the states and the federal government work together, even the most difficult and long-standing environmental problems can be solved," said Tom Sansonetti, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division.

"EPA's agreement with Toledo will improve public health and local waterways by eliminating nearly 800 million gallons of raw sewage overflows annually," said John Peter Suarez, EPA's Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "The settlement also ensures cleaner water well into the future through an upgraded wastewater treatment system."

The settlement requires the city of Toledo to end its long-standing practice of discharging raw sewage into Swan Creek and the Maumee and Ottawa Rivers. Government experts concluded that these discharges, of up to a billion gallons a year of untreated sewage, may create unsafe conditions for swimmers and others, as well as causing severe biological problems like deformities in fish.

Under the settlement, Toledo will more than double sewage treatment capacity, build a basin to hold excess sewage and improve the sewage collection and treatment system. These activities, to be carried out under federal and state supervision, should eliminate most of the raw sewage discharges from the city's treatment plant and sewers, even during peak flow times. Because of the high cost of this work, the city held a special referendum on July 9, 2002 in which the voters overwhelmingly approved the settlement 78 percent voted in favor.

In addition to the sewer-system repairs, the city will pay a $500,000 penalty and spend at least $1 million to undertake two environmental improvement projects: restoring and providing public access to wetlands in the Duck Creek basin near the east bank of the Maumee River, and cleaning up contaminated properties near the Ottawa River to allow for further business development in an area of newly developed industrial enterprises.

"This agreement reflects a joint effort to correct a long-standing problem," said Ohio Attorney General Betty D. Montgomery. "We applaud the city's willingness to commit to a long-term solution that will benefit citizens and the environment."

"For years, Toledo has struggled to address environmentally damaging sewer overflows," said Ohio EPA Director Christopher Jones. "This settlement will result in a dramatic improvement in the health of Northwest Ohio's waterways."

The Justice Department and EPA, often joined by the states, are taking an active lead in municipal Clean Water Act enforcement and have already entered into settlements with numerous municipalities including Atlanta, Baltimore, Baton Rouge, Honolulu, Miami, New Orleans, San Diego, Cincinnati and Hamilton County, Ohio, Jefferson County, Ala. and Mobile, Ala.

The proposed consent decree was filed today in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio and is subject to a 30-day public comment period.