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WASHINGTON – A settlement between the United States and the Jersey City, N.J. Municipal Utilities Authority (JCMUA) will resolve Clean Water Act violations by JCMUA for failing to properly operate and maintain its combined sewer system, the Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today.
JCMUA violations included releases of untreated sewage into the Hackensack River, Hudson River, Newark Bay and Penhorn Creek. JCMUA will invest more than $52 million in repairs and upgrades to its existing infrastructure and pay a civil penalty of $375,000.
Under the settlement, JCMUA is required to comply with its Clean Water Act permit and will conduct evaluations to identify the problems within the system that led to releases of untreated sewage. JCMUA will also complete repairs to approximately 25,000 feet of sewer lines over the next eight years. Finally, JCMUA will invest $550,000 into a supplemental environmental project that will remove privately-owned sewers from homes in several neighborhoods in Jersey City and replace them with direct sewer connections, creating better wastewater collection in those areas.
“This agreement, like others reached with cities across the country, addresses critically important and long-overdue upgrades to the municipal sewer system in Jersey City, which are required if JCMUA is to achieve compliance with the nation’s Clean Water Act,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice. “Among the actions required by the agreement, a supplemental environmental project will replace privately-owned sewers with direct sewer connections, directly benefiting economically disadvantaged residents by improving wastewater collection and preventing sewage backups in their homes.”
“Investment in municipal infrastructure and local commitments like those in today’s agreement are practical and necessary solutions to sewer overflow problems,” said Judith A. Enck, Administrator for EPA’s Region 2 Office. “Today’s agreement will help improve water quality in waters around Jersey City and protect community residents from exposure to raw sewage and contaminated stormwater, now, and into the future.”
Combined sewer systems are designed to transport sewage, industrial wastewater and rainwater runoff in the same pipes to wastewater treatment plants. During periods of heavy rainfall, the volume of wastewater traveling through a combined sewer system can exceed the capacity of the treatment plant. Resulting overflows, called Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs), contain not only stormwater but also pollutants such as untreated human and industrial waste, toxic materials, and debris. They pose risks to human health, threaten aquatic habitats and life, and impair the use and enjoyment of the nation’s waterways.
EPA recently released a report, Keeping Raw Sewage and Contaminated Stormwater Out of the Public’s Water, to answer commonly asked questions about combined sewer overflows. To read or download a copy of the report, visit www.epa.gov/region2/water/ .
The consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval. A copy of the consent decree is available on the Department of Justice web site at www.usdoj.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html