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Enforcement

City of Harrisburg Clean Water Act Settlement

(PHILADELPHIA- February 11, 2015) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced a proposed partial settlement with co-plaintiff Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) and the City of Harrisburg and Capital Region Water to resolve alleged Clean Water Act violations involving sewer overflows and discharges of polluted stormwater to the Susquehanna River and Paxton Creek.

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Overview of Sewer Authority and Facility Location

Capital Region Water (CRW) currently owns and operates a wastewater treatment plant, the sewer system that comprises approximately 90 percent combined sewers and ten percent separate sanitary sewers, and a separate storm water system (MS4).  Until December 2013, the City of Harrisburg (City) owned and operated the separate storm water system and a majority of the sewer system.

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Violations 

CRW and the City of Harrisburg violated Section 301 of the Clean Water Act and terms and conditions of its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits. The alleged violations include the following: 1) prohibited dry weather overflows of raw sewage to the Susquehanna River and Paxton Creek; 2) effluent limitation violations; 3) failure to implement combined sewer overflow (CSO) nine minimum controls; 4) failure to implement MS4 minimum control measures; 5) failure to develop and implement an adequate long term control plan; 6) failure to comply with NPDES permit for construction of biological nutrient removal at the wastewater treatment plant; and 7) prohibited sanitary sewer overflows.

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Injunctive Relief 

CRW and the City will enter a partial consent decree to partially address the NPDES permit violations.  The partial consent decree will require CRW to comply with the nine minimum control requirements in its NPDES permit, develop a long term control plan to address illegal discharges, address effluent violations, meet the schedule to construct biological nutrient removal at its wastewater treatment plant, and address violations of applicable MS4 NPDES permit, to be implemented over the next five years.  After a long term control plan that is approved by EPA and the Pennsylvania Department of Environment under the terms of the partial consent decree, the parties will choose to either modify the existing decree to incorporate the long term control plan, or enter into a second consent decree that covers the plan’s implementation.   

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Environmental Justice

The City of Harrisburg’s service area includes minority and low income communities. As of the 2010 census, approximately 70 percent of the population is minority and/or low income. The consent decree requires that the injunctive relief, including most notably the long term control plan, include an analysis of impacts to environmental justice populations.  Early action work under the consent decree will result in the elimination of sinkholes and severe sewer system defects impacting environmental justice populations. 

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Green Infrastructure

The consent decree includes provisions that take into account EPA’s evolving policies and strategies on municipal Clean Water Act compliance, including the Agency’s encouragement of green infrastructure projects for mitigation of municipal wet weather problems.  Specially, the consent decree states, “CRW shall consider green infrastructure alternatives as part of the combined sewer system control alternatives under the long term control plan.”

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Next Generation Compliance

One of the early action projects is to identify long-term CSO activation monitoring equipment that is suitable for CRW’s system.  The partial consent decree requires CRW to develop and conduct a pilot study to evaluate several flow activation technologies.  CRW will use the results of this pilot study to determine which technology to implement to send an alert each time a monitored CSO outfall begins discharging.

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Pollutant Reductions

Through the implementation of the partial consent decree, the following estimated annual pollutant reductions will result:

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Health and Environmental Effects

  • 205,539 pounds of total suspended solids;
  • 2,157 pounds of biological oxygen demand;
  • 5,398 pounds of chemical oxygen demand;
  • 584,583 pounds of total nitrogen; and
  • 3,918 pounds of total phosphorus.
  • Total suspended solids (TSS) – TSS indicates the measure of suspended solids in wastewater, effluent or water bodies. High levels of TSS in a water body can diminish the amount of light that penetrates the water column and reduce photosynthesis and the production of oxygen. 
  • Biological oxygen demand (BOD) – BOD is an indirect measure of the biologically degradable material present in organic wastes. High BOD means there is an abundance of biologically degradable material that will consume oxygen from the water during the degradation process. It may take away oxygen that is needed for aquatic organisms to survive. 
  • Chemical oxygen demand (COD) – COD is a measure based on the chemical decomposition of organic and inorganic contaminants, dissolved or suspended in water. As with BOD, high levels of COD indicate high levels of pollutants are present in the wastewater that will consume oxygen from the water, and may take away oxygen that is needed for aquatic organisms to survive.
  • Nutrients - Excess levels of nitrogen and phosphorus in waters can produce harmful algal blooms. These blooms contribute to the creation of hypoxia or “dead zones” in water bodies where dissolved oxygen levels are so low that most aquatic life cannot survive.

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Civil Penalty

The partial consent decree completely resolves the City of Harrisburg’s violations.  A penalty for CRW will be deferred and assessed when a final consent decree is entered with an enforceable schedule for implementation of the long term control plan.   

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State Partner

The State of Pennsylvania is a co-plaintiff.

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Comment Period

Once the proposed consent decree is lodged with the court, the settlement will be subject to a 30-day public comment period.

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For more information, contacts:

Joanna Citron Day
Water Enforcement Division
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW (Mail Code 2243A)
Washington, DC  20460
(202) 564-5568
day.joanna@epa.gov

James Zimny
Water Enforcement Division
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW (Mail Code 2243A)
Washington, DC  20460
(202) 564-6551
zimny.james@epa.gov

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