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Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Peter D. Lopez, Regional Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”), announced today that the United States has filed a civil lawsuit against the City of Mount Vernon, New York (“Mount Vernon”) for violating the Clean Water Act. The lawsuit alleges that Mount Vernon has long failed to comply with Clean Water Act storm sewer permit requirements designed to prevent raw sewage and other illicit pollutants from flowing from the City’s storm sewer system to the Hutchinson and Bronx Rivers.
U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman stated: “For years, Mount Vernon has discharged raw sewage and other illicit pollutants from its storm sewer system into the Hutchinson and Bronx Rivers. Mount Vernon has consistently failed to comply with permit requirements intended to prevent these discharges, and has flouted EPA administrative orders intended to address the problem. Today’s lawsuit will protect the waters of this district by obtaining a judicial order compelling Mount Vernon to bring its sewers into compliance with the Clean Water Act.”
EPA Regional Administrator Peter D. Lopez said: “The City of Mount Vernon must take the appropriate actions to protect its residents and downstream communities from threats posed by raw sewage and other pollutants. EPA and New York State will continue to work together with the city to ensure that Mount Vernon understands how to fix the problems with its storm sewer system. In addition, we support efforts by the city to seek funding to assist Mount Vernon in getting the necessary work completed. This complaint gets to the core of EPA’s mission of protecting people’s health, and we will continue to work with the state and city to carry out that mission.”
As alleged in the complaint filed today in White Plains federal court, the Clean Water Act generally prohibits discharges of pollutants into navigable waters, absent a permit. Many municipalities, like Mount Vernon, operate “municipal separate storm sewer systems” that carry storm water and discharge it without treatment into nearby waters. Because separate storm sewer systems do not treat the water they discharge, a municipality is required by its Clean Water Act permit to maintain a program for identifying and eliminating any sewage or other illicit pollutants that are flowing into the storm sewers.
The lawsuit filed today alleges that since at least January 2012, Mount Vernon has failed to comply with these permit obligations and, as a result, has allowed raw sewage to flow into its storm sewer system, and then to be discharged into the Hutchinson and Bronx Rivers. Mount Vernon has also failed to comply with two EPA Administrative Orders issued to compel the City’s compliance with these requirements.
The lawsuit seeks an injunction compelling Mount Vernon to comply with applicable Clean Water Act requirements and an order imposing civil penalties for Mount Vernon’s violations to date.
The State of New York and the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation are co-plaintiffs in this lawsuit, asserting parallel claims under state law.
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Mr. Berman thanked EPA for its invaluable efforts in this matter.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Environmental Protection Unit. Assistant United States Attorney Natasha W. Teleanu is in charge of the case.