Aging infrastructure and outdated sewer systems have brought about the chronic discharge of raw sewage into U.S. surface waters. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated in August 2004 that the volume of combined sewer overflows (CSOs) discharged nationwide is 850 billion gallons per year.
The EPA is taking municipalities to court for infractions under the Clean Water Act (CWA). For example, the U.S. Justice Department and the EPA announced a comprehensive Clean Water Act settlement, or consent decree, with the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD) to reduce flow of untreated sewage through combined sewers into Cleveland area waterways and Lake Erie. As a result of the settlement NEORSD is required to capture and treat more than 98 percent of wet weather flows entering the combined sewer system. The settlement requires NEORSD to spend approximately $3 billion to install pollution controls including the construction of tunnel systems, that will reduce the discharges of untreated, raw sewage to approximately 537 million gallons per year. The consent decree requires NEORSD to invest at least $42 million in green infrastructure projects. Finally the settlement requires NEORSD to pay a penalty of $1.2 million.
The EPA, the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the State of Illinois announced a Clean Water Act settlement (consent decree) with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) to setlle a court case under the Clean water Act relating to Chicago's combined sewer system which during times of heavy rainfall results in combined sewer overflows (CSOs) into Lake Michigan and other water bodies. The settlement requires upgrading Chicago’s sewer infrastructure to reduce combined sewage overflows. The legally binding settlement mandates that MWRD make critical structural changes to improve the quality of Chicago’s waterways and includes green infrastructure projects to reduce runoff.
Specifically under the settlement, the MWRD is required to
- complete a tunnel and reservoir plan to increase its capacity to store storm waetr runoff during wet weather events for later processing. The project is intended to be completed in a series of stages in 2015, 2017 and 2029.
- control trash and debris in overflows using skimmer boats to remove debris from the water so it can be collected and properly managed.
- implement a green infrastructure program that will reduce stormwater runoff in areas serviced by MWRD by distributing rain barrels and developing projects to build green roofs, rain gardens, or use pervious paving materials in urban neighborhoods
- pay a civil penalty of $675,000.