I've blogged previously about EPA consent decrees designed to reduce the discharge of untreated sewage into surface waters with Cleveland, Akron, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, and Chicago. These have imposed legally binding investments of between half a billion to multi-billions of dollars on these cities, for many of which this represents a huge financial burden.
The EPA has just annouced an agreement with the City of South Bend, Indiana which requires the City to make an estimated $509.5 million worth of improvements to its combined sewer system to significantly reduce overflows of raw sewage to the St. Joseph River, which among other things is used for kayaking compeititions (which I hope never occur after it rains).
South Bend's combined sewer system collects storm water, sanitary sewage, and other pollutants which it conveys to South Bend's wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). During wet weather events, and during some dry weather time periods, a portion of the sewage that flows through the combined sewers is not conveyed all the way to the WWTP; instead the raw sewage is discharged into the St. Joseph River. Currently, on average South Bend discharges over 2 billion gallons of untreated sewage resulting from 80 combined sewer overflow (CSO) events annually. With the improvements required by the consent decree, South Bend will reduce the number of raw sewage discharge events by 95 percent to only four during a typical year of rainfall. The reduced discharges will result in preventing over 700,000 pounds of pollutants from entering the St. Joseph River each year.
These settlements impose siginficant financial obligations on cities which in many cases have very limited funds. Recently the EPA has announced a new integrated planning process which is designed to help local governments deal with difficult financial conditions and to identify ways to achieve clean water by controlling and managing releases of wastewater and stormwater runoff more efficiently and cost effectively. According to the EPA an integrated approach allows communities to prioritize their investments to address the most serious water issues first and provides flexibility to use innovative, cost-effective storm- and wastewater management solutions including green infrastructure.