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EPA Files $60,000 Complaint Against Juneau for 1999 Sewage Violations

Release Date: 9/11/2000
Contact Information: Bub Loiselle
(206) 553-6901

September 11, 2000 - - - - - - - - - - - - - 00-049

The regional office of the Environmental Protection Agency today announced that it is proposing a $60,000 penalty against the City and Borough of Juneau for repeated discharges of raw and inadequately treated sewage into the Mendenhall River and Gastineau Channel. Faulty operations at the sewage treatment plant also caused sewage to back-up into the homes of some Juneau residents last year.
The EPA complaint notes repeated violations of the Clean Water Act between June and November of 1999 when the facility’s discharge monitoring reports (DMRs) showed that fecal coliform counts in its discharges exceeded permitted levels by up to 437,000 percent. In addition the complaint notes failure to properly operate the treatment plant, allowing overflow of raw sewage, and failure to notify EPA of an overflow of raw sewage.

Fecal coliform is an indicator of a number of bacteria, viruses, and parasites that can cause gastroenteritis, fever, kidney failure, and even death. High fecal coliform counts can also harm fish and wildlife in and around the discharge area, in this case the Mendenhall River and Gastineau Channel.

“Large and small communities experience these kinds of problems,” said Bub Loiselle, Manager of EPA’s water permit compliance unit in Seattle. “When you consider the particluarly nasty organisms that are found in raw sewage, you realize that its release is a significant public health concern. This is why stepping up our compliance efforts has become a national priority for EPA.”

Loiselle added that as part of the national EPA effort his office is increasing compliance evaluations of sewage treatment plants in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington to identify systems with overflow problems and take actions to correct them as his office has done in the Juneau case.

“There’s no excuse for a city the size of Juneau to have sewage problems like these,” said Marcia Combes, Director of EPA’s Alaska office in Anchorage. “The fixes are affordable and clearly necessary in order to protect public health.”