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Enforcement

The City of Lancaster, PA Clean Water Act Settlement

(Washington, D.C. – December 20, 2017) – The city of Lancaster, Pennsylvania has agreed to comprehensive measures to end discharges of untreated sewage and other pollutants to local waterways from the City’s combined storm and sewage system, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Justice and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) announced today. 

Overview of Companies

The City of Lancaster, PA (City) owns and operates approximately 88 miles of combined sewer pipes and 60 miles of separate sanitary sewer pipes, five combined sewer overflow (CSO) outfalls on the Conestoga River, a wastewater treatment plant known as the Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP), eight pump stations, manholes, and associated appurtenances. Thirteen tributary municipalities convey their wastewater to Lancaster’s WWTP for treatment and subsequent discharge to the Conestoga River. The system’s service population is approximately 130,000.

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Violations

The complaint seeks injunctive relief and civil penalties and alleges four claims under the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the Pennsylvania Clean Streams Law, Act of June 22, 1937, P.L. 1987, as amended (Clean Streams Law), specifically Sections 601 and 604 of the Clean Streams Law, 35 P.S. §§ 691.601 and 695.605.  These claims are: (1) failure to develop and implement an adequate long-term control plan (LTCP); (2) failure to comply with NPDES permit effluent limitations, (3) failure to comply with NPDES permit conditions regarding implementation of the nine minimum controls; and (4) unauthorized discharges into navigable waters, including sanitary sewer overflows. 

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Injunctive Relief

The Consent Decree requires the City to complete Early Action Projects and to develop and implement a LTCP to address CSOs. The City’s LTCP is required to conform to the requirements of EPA's 1994 CSO Policy and 1995 CSO LTCP Guidance. The work under the Consent Decree will be completed over the next twenty years.  

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Green Infrastructure

Since 2010, the City has implemented, and is continuing to implement, a green infrastructure program through which it has constructed or initiated construction of 45 green infrastructure projects throughout the City of Lancaster. Under the Consent Decree, the City will document its implementation of its existing green infrastructure program, and the City also has the opportunity to include green infrastructure projects in its LTCP.

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Advanced Technology

To increase transparency, the Consent Decree requires the City to develop a visual notification system designed to notify the public of the occurrence of CSOs at Lancaster’s CSO outfalls. The visual notification system will include fixed signs and a CSO event indicator warning light system. 

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Pollutant Reductions

Through the implementation of the Consent Decree, the following estimated annual pollutant reductions are expected to result:

  • 558,596 pounds of total suspended solids;
  • 27,511 pounds of biochemical oxygen demand;
  • 15,747 pounds of total nitrogen; and
  • 20,660 pounds of total phosphorus.

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Health and Environmental Effects

  • 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. 
  • Biochemical 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. 
  • 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 City will pay a civil penalty in the amount of $135,000 to the United States and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for its violations of the CWA.  

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Supplemental Environmental Project

The City will spend between $1.8 and $2.3 million on a supplemental environmental project involving the daylighting and restoration of a segment of Groff’s Run that is intended to restore approximately 1,350 linear feet of urban stream channel, reconnect wetlands to the Conestoga River, and establish additional habitat for micro- and macro-biota, thereby enhancing water quality. The project will also help reduce localized flooding from unmanaged impervious areas by providing additional stream capacity and flow rate attenuation above the confluence of the Conestoga River.

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State Partner

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, acting through the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, joined as a co‑plaintiff and brought parallel claims under the Pennsylvania Clean Streams Law, Act of June 22, 1937, P.L. 1987, as amended, specifically Sections 601 and 604 of the Clean Streams Law, 35 P.S. §§ 691.601 and 695.605. 

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Comment Period

The proposed Consent Decree, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.   Information on submitting comment is available at the Department of Justice.  A summary of the settlement will be available in Samoan on that website.

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Contact Information

Cate Tierney
Attorney-Adviser
Water Enforcement Division
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW (Mail Code 2243A)
Washington, DC, 20460
(202) 564-4254
Tierney.Cate@epa.gov

Sarah Gonzalez
Attorney-Adviser
Water Enforcement Division
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW (Mail Code 2243A)
Washington, DC, 20460
(202) 564-2841
Gonzalez.sarah@epa.gov

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