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Enforcement

Delaware County Regional Water Quality Control Authority Clean Water Act Settlement

(Washington, DC - August 17, 2015)  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) today announced a settlement with the Delaware County Regional Water Quality Control Authority (DELCORA) resolving alleged Clean Water Act violations involving combined sewer overflows (CSOs) to the Delaware River and its tributaries. In a proposed consent decree, DELCORA has agreed to develop and implement a plan to control and significantly reduce overflows from its sewer system, which will improve the water quality of the Delaware River, Chester Creek and Ridley Creek near Philadelphia, Pa. 

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Overview 

The Delaware County Regional Water Quality Control Authority (DELCORA) is a municipal authority that owns, operates, and maintains a publicly owned treatment works, which includes a wastewater treatment plant known as the Western Regional Treatment Plant, located in the city of Chester, Pennsylvania and a collection system that collects stormwater and wastewater from residential, commercial, and industrial sources. The collection system has 28 combined sewer overflow (CSO) outfalls that discharge into the Delaware River, Chester Creek, and Ridley Creek.

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Violations

DELCORA violated Section 301 of the Clean Water Act and terms and conditions of its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits, which set limits for how much of a certain pollutant an entity is allowed to discharge into a waterbody. DELCORA’s alleged violations include impermissibly discharging untreated sewage from its collection system, failure to develop and implement a long-term control plan (LTCP) that meets the requirements of the CSO Control Policy, unauthorized dry-weather overflows, and effluent violations from the Western Regional Treatment Plant.

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Injunctive Relief

The proposed consent decree includes specific requirements to develop and implement a LTCP to control CSO discharges in compliance with technology-based and water-quality based Clean Water Act requirements. As part of the LTCP development, DELCORA will update its hydraulic model and assess all feasible CSO control options. DELCORA will submit the LTCP to EPA for review and approval within 3.5 years of consent decree lodging. The LTCP and all CSO controls must be in operation no later than 20 years from consent decree lodging. In addition, DELCORA will replace a pump station in order to decrease CSO discharge volumes from five of its outfalls prior to 2019. DELCORA will also evaluate and document the current level of operation and maintenance it performs, and shall identify actions necessary for achieving compliance with the CSO control policy for all nine minimum controls and include an implementation schedule for completing those actions. The total cost of implementing the LTCP, pump station replacement, and nine minimum control measures could exceed $200 million.

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Environmental Justice

When the injunctive relief is implemented, the proposed consent decree will help reduce the direct exposure of low income and minority populations in DELCORA’s service area to raw sewage. DELCORA must submit a public participation plan seeking input from communities that historically may have been borne a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences resulting from DELCORA’s CSOs. DELCORA also must ensure that the LTCP and selected CSO control measures will not impose a disproportionate share of negative environmental consequences on such communities in the future.

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Enhanced/Next Gen Compliance

The proposed consent decree includes a requirement to notify the public of CSO discharges using a new visual notification system. The system shall be installed at a minimum of three locations for each receiving water (Delaware River, Chester Creek, and Ridley Creek) at public access locations. The system shall be designed to notify the public of the occurrence of CSO discharges based on flow monitoring at representative CSO outfalls. The system shall comprise a series of colored lights, flags or pendants that shall operate to display warnings when CSO discharge is detected and for at least 24 hours after flow is no longer detected. When operational, the visual notification system and flow monitoring shall be described and explained on DELCORA’s web site.

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Pollutant Reductions

Through the implementation of the proposed consent decree, the following estimated annual pollutant reductions will result from the implementation of the LTCP:

  • 508,274 pounds of total suspended solids
  • 68,119 pounds of biochemical oxygen demand
  • 1,650,580 pounds of chemical oxygen demand.

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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.
  • 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.

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Civil Penalty

DELCORA will pay a civil penalty of $1,375,000 which will be split between the United States and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

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State Partner

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is a co-plaintiff.

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Comment Period

The proposed settlement is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.  Information on submitting comment is available at the Department of Justice website.

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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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