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Greenwich, Conn. to Pay Penalty in Sewer Overflow Case; Town Ordered to Study and Make Repairs to Sewer System

Release Date: 01/15/2002
Contact Information: Mark Merchant, EPA Press Office (617) 918-1013 Andrew Spejewski, EPA Press Office (617) 918-1014 Matthew Fritz, Conn. DEP Press Office (860) 424-4117 Maura Fitzgerald, Conn. Attorney General's office (860) 808-5324

BOSTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Justice, the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection and the Connecticut Attorney General today announced a settlement with the town of Greenwich, Conn. over violations of the federal Clean Water Act.
This settlement – the result of complaints filed by EPA and the state of Connecticut – requires the town to pay a civil penalty of $285,000 and complete a comprehensive study of, and make repairs to, its sewer system.

Greenwich operates an aging public sewer system that serves about 50,000 residents. The complaint stems from raw sewage that has overflowed on several occasions. The town is allowed to discharge only treated sewage from its wastewater treatment plant under its operating permit issued by the state of Connecticut in accordance with the federal Clean Water Act.

The town has studied ways to prevent sewage from overflowing into surface waters, but has not implemented the repairs necessary to prevent the overflows. As a result, there have been occasional sewage overflows from areas other than the wastewater treatment plant into Greenwich Harbor, Cos Cob Harbor and Long Meadow Creek. The overflows were caused by of structural failures, inadequate maintenance and extra water that enters Greenwich's sewer collection system during high tide or storm events.

"These pollution problems are unacceptable for any municipality, especially one that is right on Long Island Sound, a valuable natural resource which is struggling with a host of environmental problems," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England office. "Keeping sewer systems in good working order must be a priority for all communities."

EPA and the DEP believe that on two occasions over one million gallons of untreated or inadequately treated sewage flowed into these waters. In addition to violating the state-issued wastewater treatment permit, these discharges are prohibited by the federal Clean Water Act.

Connecticut Department of Environmental Commissioner Arthur J. Rocque, Jr. said that although there is no proof of specific environmental harm in this case, raw sewage discharges have significant environmental consequences. In addition to containing toxics, raw sewage can exert a high oxygen demand on the receiving waters and contain unsafe levels of bacteria and other pathogens, suspended solids, nutrients and floatable matter.

"The effort to improve water quality not only involves multi-million dollar upgrades to treatment facilities, but it also involves maintaining the sewer lines and infrastructure leading to the treatment plants," said Rocque. "Unfortunately, Greenwich let its system get in such a state of disrepair that raw sewage discharges have become a far too frequent event. Today's action has made Greenwich and, for that matter, all of Connecticut's municipalities aware of the importance of keeping their sewer system infrastructure in good working order."

In addition to paying a cash penalty, the town must make a comprehensive study of its sewer system and make the necessary repairs and upgrades. Under the terms of the settlement, the majority of this work will be completed within six years.

"The most important point about this agreement with the town of Greenwich is that it assures better sewage treatment and anti-pollution efforts significant to the health and quality of life there and throughout the state. I am proud that the town has recognized the priority that should be given to stopping illegal wastewater discharge in the interest of Long Island Sound and its precious ecosystems, as well as town residents," said Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. "I hope that this agreement will mark the beginning of an even stronger partnership for environmental protection involving town, state, and federal authorities."

Both EPA and Connecticut environmental officials have been focusing enforcement efforts on violations associated with various "wet weather" discharges, including discharges of pollutants in stormwater, combined sewer overflows and sanitary sewer overflows.

For more information, visit these EPA Websites:

And these Connecticut DEP Websites: