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Clean Water: Case Highlights

The following cases were brought by EPA to address violations of the Clean Water Act. Through the highlighted cases described below, and the many other EPA water enforcement cases concluded in FY 2010, EPA compelled compliance with the law and achieved substantial reductions in discharges of water pollutants, totalling an estimated 1 billion lbs. per year.

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Combined Sewer Overflows and Sanitary Sewer Overflows

HamptonRoads, Virginia, Sanitation District Sewer System

EPA and co-plaintiff, the Commonwealth of Virginia, entered a judicial Consent Decree with Hampton Roads Sanitation District (HRSD), the entity responsible for providing sewage treatment services for communities in the Tidewater, Virginia area, to make major upgrades and improvements to the sewer system to eliminate unauthorized overflows of untreated raw sewage.  The Consent Decree addresses violations of the federal Clean Water Act, including unauthorized discharges of at least nine million gallons of untreated sewage and other wastes from its sewer system and sewage treatment plants into several water bodies used for fishing and recreation, including the Chesapeake Bay.  Under the settlement, HRSD must comprehensively monitor and model the sewer system and watersheds to develop a regional plan that will ensure adequate capacity to prevent sewage overflows.  Subsequently, HRSD must implement the regional plan.  The settlement also requires HRSD to make major upgrades and improvements to the sewer system infrastructure over the next eight years.  These upgrades are estimated to cost at least $140 million.  As part of the agreement, HRSD paid a penalty of $900,000 to the United States and the Commonwealth of Virginia. Read more on Hampton Roads

Kansas City, Missouri, Sewer System

On September 27, 2010, EPA entered into a Consent Decree with the City of Kansas City, Missouri (City) that requires the city to spend at least $2.5 billion on the installation of controls to reduce its overflows of raw sewage in the several sewer system that it owns and operates by approximately 5 ½ billion gallons per year, resulting in substantial water quality improvements to its communities.  In particular, the decree requires the City to expedite controls in underserved communities to provide relief to the many households that currently experience sewer backups in their homes.  The City will also use green infrastructure, including green roofs, rain gardens, and pervious pavement, to assist in the prevention of sewer overflows.  These controls constitute cost-effective and sustainable approaches to reducing overflows while providing a variety of other environmental and community benefits.  This settlement also requires the City to pay a $600,000 civil penalty, and perform a supplemental environmental project, at a cost of at least $1.6 million, to implement a sewer connection and septic tank closure program for approximately 533 low-income households. Read more on Kansas City, Missouri, Sewer System  

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Storm Water Runoff

Aggregate Industries – Northeast Region, Inc,

Under a Consent Decree entered in November 2009, Aggregate Industries – Northeast Region, Inc. agreed to pay a civil penalty of $2.75 million and implement a compliance program to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Water Act’s (CWA) storm water requirements at 23 facilities in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.  This is the largest penalty ever assessed by EPA against a nationwide ready-mix concrete company for storm water violations under the Clean Water Act. The company is one of the largest producers of crushed stone, sand and gravel, asphalt batching, and ready-mixed concrete in New England.  This settlement requires the company to implement pollution control measures and perform comprehensive compliance evaluations at each of its 43 facilities in New England, as well as any facility acquired in the next three years, to ensure that the facilities are in compliance with CWA requirements.  EPA estimates that the measures required by this settlement will reduce the discharge of approximately 89,000 pounds of sediment, 2,100 pounds of oil and grease, 100 pounds of iron and 124 pounds of nitrate and nitrogen each year.  These pollutants, which were discharged into wetlands and streams, can be detrimental to aquatic life and water quality. Read more on Aggregate Industries - Northeast Region, Inc.

Hovnanian Enterprises

In April 2010, EPA entered into a Consent Decree with Hovnanian Enterprises, one of the country’s largest home builders, to address Clean Water Act (CWA) violations of construction storm water requirements across several states aimed at protecting our nation’s waterways from sediment and other pollutants discharged from construction sites.  Hovnanian agreed to implement a company-wide storm water compliance program and pay a $1 million penalty to resolve alleged CWA violations at numerous construction sites.  The compliance program will result in increased company oversight of all construction sites.  EPA estimates that implementation of the compliance program will reduce the amount of sediment discharged in storm water runoff from future Hovnanian sites by 366 million pounds annually.  A portion of the settlement helps EPA efforts to protect the Chesapeake Bay, North America’s largest and most biologically diverse estuary. The Bay and its tidal tributaries are threatened by pollution from a variety of sources, and overburdened with nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment that can be carried by storm water. A total of 161 Hovnanian construction sites in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia fall within the Bay watershed and are covered by this settlement. Read more on Hovnanian Enterprises  

This settlement is the latest in a series of enforcement actions EPA has taken to address storm water violations from construction sites around the country.  Similar Consent Decrees have been reached with multiple national and regional home building companies this year, including John Wieland Homes and Neighborhoods which is a leading builder of semi-custom homes in the southeastern United States.  In November 2009, Wieland agreed to pay a civil penalty of $350,000 and to implement a similar company-wide storm water compliance program.  As a result of this settlement, EPA estimated that the discharge of sediment from future Wieland sites will be reduced by 37 million pounds annually. 

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Oil and Hazardous Substances Water Pollution

In FY 2010, five civil judicial actions were entered for violations of Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 311/309 (oil and hazardous substances spills) and the Oil Pollution Prevention regulations at 40 CFR Part 112.  The five cases were:  Plains All American Pipeline, Pacific Pipeline Systems, Norfolk Southern Railway Company, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, and NuStar Pipeline Operating Partnership.  These cases addressed multiple discharges of oil and hazardous substances, as well as violations of spill prevention (SPCC) and facility response planning (FRP) regulatory requirements.  The violations included discharges of more than 10,909 barrels of oil and 43 tons of chlorine.  The Norfolk Southern case is one of the largest settlements to address a discharge of a hazardous substance and the Nustar case is one of the first judicial actions to address facility response plan violations.

Plains All American Pipeline Settlement

Penalties for the five cases totaled $9.25 million, of which $9,194,500 was paid for violations of CWA Section 311.  Several of these cases included comprehensive injunctive relief.  Plains agreed to a comprehensive program to upgrade 10,420 miles of crude oil pipeline, estimated to cost $41 million.  Read more on Plains All American Pipeline Settlement

City and County of San Francisco

Norfolk Southern will improve internal posting of National Response Center information and restock adult fish of various species in the impacted watershed.  Norfolk Southern and San Francisco will both conduct incident command system training to improve emergency response. Read more on City and County of San Francisco. Norfolk Southern and Nustar will both conduct supplemental environmental projects, valued at $868,000, to improve sediment control and install more advanced alarm systems.

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Criminal Case Highlights

For information on criminal violations involving water, see Criminal Case Highlights.

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For more information on clean water statutes and regulations, enforcement programs, enforcement initiatives and cases and settlements see:

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