Of St. joseph River Watershed Settlements
Hammond, Indiana - United States Attorney David Capp and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced that the City of Mishawaka, Indiana has agreed to make an estimated $132.1 million worth of improvements to its combined sewer system to completely eliminate overflows of raw sewage to the St. Joseph River during a typical year of rainfall.
The improvements that Mishawaka will implement to its sewer system under the consent decree announced today will provide major public health and environmental benefits.Currently, Mishawaka annually discharges into the St. Joseph River an estimated 111 million gallons of raw sewage.After implementing the improvements required under the settlement, Mishawaka will completely eliminate all raw sewage discharge events during a typical year of rainfall.The State of Indiana is a co-plaintiff and a signatory to the proposed consent decree.
The settlement with Mishawaka completes a trio of settlements; first with the City of Elkhart approved by the Court on November 30, 2011; then with South Bend approved by the Court on May 2, 2012; and finally with Mishawaka, lodged with the Court today for public comment pursuant to the Clean Water Act.The three settlements require sewer system improvements at an estimated cost of $800 million.The sewer system improvements are expected to reduce annual raw sewage discharges by over 1.1 billion gallons.The reduced discharges will result in preventing over 700,000 pounds of pollutants from entering the St. Joseph River each year.
All three communities have combined sewer systems that collect and convey stormwater, sanitary sewage, and other pollutants to wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). During wet weather events, and during some dry weather time periods, a portion of the sewage that flows through combined sewer systems is not conveyed all the way to the WWTPs; instead the raw sewage is discharged into the St. Joseph River through outfalls activated when the waste water flow exceeds the capacity of the collection, conveyance, and treatment capabilities of the combined sewer system.
“The trio of Clean Water Act settlements concluded today will result in historic and permanent water quality improvements to the St. Joseph River and Lake Michigan that will benefit this region for decades to come,” said United States Attorney David Capp.“Mishawaka’s commendable commitment to completely eliminate raw sewage discharges during a typical year of rainfall, combined with the commitments of South Bend and Elkhart, will pay off in better protection of public health and a cleaner river and Great Lake for all to enjoy.”
“When the Cities of Mishawaka, South Bend, and Elkhart complete the work they have agreed to in these three settlements, the water in the St. Joseph River and Lake Michigan will be cleaner and healthier,” said EPA Region 5 Administrator / Great Lakes National Program Manager Susan Hedman.
“Mishawaka has made great progress in eliminating pollution from its CSOs and improving the quality of the St. Joseph River,” said Thomas Easterly, IDEM Commissioner.“The City’s continued commitment to further reductions will mean healthier neighborhoods for all downstream communities who use the St. Joseph River for fishing, recreation, and as a drinking water source.”
“Protecting our rivers and streams is an important shared responsibility.The settlement is fair to all sides and the City of Mishawaka has agreed to uphold its environmental obligations.Ultimately the public -- those who live and work near the river – will benefit from these planned improvements,” said Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, whose office serves as legal counsel to State government.
Today’s settlement is the latest in a series of Clean Water Act settlements that will reduce raw sewage discharges into the United States’ rivers, streams, and lakes.The settlement requires Mishawaka to pay a civil penalty of $28,000 for those Clean Water Act violations, which will be divided equally between the United States and the State of Indiana. Keeping raw sewage and contaminated storm water out of the waters of the United States is one of EPA’s National Enforcement Initiatives for 2011 to 2014.The initiative focuses on reducing discharges from sewer overflows by obtaining cities’ commitments to implement timely affordable solutions to these problems, including the increased use of green infrastructure and other innovative approaches.
This case was handled by Assistant United States Attorney Wayne Ault and EPA Senior Counsel Thomas Kenney. Elizabeth Admire, an attorney for IDEM, served as counsel for co‑plaintiff State of Indiana.
The consent decree was lodged in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana.The consent decree will be subject to a 30‑day public comment period and subsequent judicial approval, and will be available on the Justice Department website at http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html