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Enforcement

Gary Sanitary District and City of Gary Clean Water Settlement

(Chicago, IL – Dec. 12, 2016) – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice have reached an agreement with the city of Gary and the Gary Sanitary District that will resolve long-standing violations of the Clean Water Act, including the release of raw sewage. The city will pay a civil fine of $75,000 and take corrective steps starting immediately and continuing over the next 25 years to eliminate these problems.

Overview

The Gary Sanitary District (GSD) and City of Gary (the City) provide sewage treatment and wastewater services to City of Gary, as well as portions of the neighboring communities of Merrillville, Hobart, and Lake Station. GSD and the City own and operate a wastewater collection treatment system (WCTS) with one 60 million gallons per day (MGD) wastewater treatment plant. The wastewater collection system (WCTS) is ninety percent combined, and consists of approximately 375 miles of sanitary and storm sewers, twelve combined sewer overflow (CSO) regulators, and twenty-eight pumping stations. Five of the CSO outfalls discharge to the Little Calumet River, and seven of the CSO outfalls discharge to the Greater Calumet River. The City’s service area is fifty square miles. The actual service population, is estimated at 160,000.

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Violations

The complaint alleges violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA) in the form of discharges of untreated sewage from GSD and the City’s sewage collection system, including CSOs, to waters of the United States. The GSD and the City violated Section 301 of the Clean Water Act and terms and conditions of their National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits.  

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Injunctive Relief

Under the proposed settlement, GSD and the City will implement injunctive relief over a 25 year period that will address CSOs occurring in violation of the CWA. The settlement also requires measures to remediate PCB contamination (occurring in violation of the Toxic Substances and Control Act (TSCA)) at a water body in the City known as the Ralston Street Lagoon to be completed by June 27, 2017.

CSO/SSO Measures: These measures require GSD and the City to:  (1) conduct proper operations and maintenance measures, particularly of critical components of the POTW such as the raw influent pumps, primary and secondary clarifies, tertiary filters, and collection system storage capacity so that the WWTP treats the maximum treatable flow during all wet weather conditions; and (2) develop long term injunctive relief measures within a long-term control plan (LTCP) that will limit the occurrence of CSOs.

TSCA Measures:  The measures to remediate the Ralston Street Lagoon PCB contamination include the use of dredged sediments from the East Branch of the Grand Calumet River to close the Lagoon.  

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Pollutant Reductions  

  • 274,954 pounds of total suspended solids
  • 36,850 pounds of biological oxygen demand
  • 892,893 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.
  • 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) – Indicates the amount of organic compounds in water. High COD levels can present threats to human health including toxic algae blooms bacteria from organic wastes and seafood contamination.

Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs) 

GSD and the City will spend at least $175,000 on supplemental environmental projects (SEPS) that involve the removal of invasive plant species (particularly phragmites) and restore native vegetation to stream banks and riparian areas in Northwest Indiana, including on the Grand Calumet River, a waterbody that has been impacted by the overflows from GSD and the City sewer system (specifically at Pine Station Nature Preserve “oxbow” a 19 –acre area of the bank of the Grand Calumet River). These SEPs will deliver environmental benefits including improving habitats, eliminating an unnatural monoculture, preventing shoreline erosion, increasing stormwater retention, benefiting local hydrology, and improving natural filtration of wet weather flows

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Civil Penalty

GSD and the City will pay a civil penalty of $75,000 for its Clean Water Act violations to the United States and the State of Indiana.

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State Partner

The State of Indiana is a co-plaintiff.

Comment Period

The proposed settlement, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.  Information on submitting comments is available at the Department of Justice website.

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For more information, contact:

Sushila Nanda
Water Enforcement Division
1200 Pennsylvania Ave, NW (Mail Code 2243A)
Washington, DC 20460
(202)564-4088
nanda.sushila@epa.gov

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