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Enforcement

Middletown, Ohio Clean Water Act Settlement

Overview of Company

The City of Middletown, Ohio owns and operates approximately 342 miles of sewer pipe that convey sewage and other pollutants to the wastewater treatment plant. The collection system includes combined sewers (i.e., pipes that carry both sewage and stormwater in the same pipe) and sanitary sewers (i.e., pipes that are designed to carry sewage only). Middletown discharges wastewater containing pollutants from Middletown’s wastewater treatment plant to the Great Miami River. Middletown also discharges wastewater containing pollutants through eight combined sewer overflow (CSO) outfalls to the Great Miami River. The system’s service population is approximately 52,000.

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Violations

The complaint seeks injunctive relief and civil penalties and alleges four claims under the CWA and the Pennsylvania Clean Streams Law. These claims are: (1) violation of National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit effluent limitations for chlorine, ammonia, fecal coliform, and pH, (2) violation of NPDES permit general effluent limitations (3) unauthorized dry weather discharges from CSO outfalls; and (4) failure to monitor and/or report the results for total suspended solids, fecal coliform, and carbonaceous biochemical oxygen demand.

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Injunctive Relief

  • Long-Term Control Plan

The consent decree requires the city to implement their approved long-term control plan to address CSOs. The long-term control plan CSO control measures will reduce overflows to six CSO events in the typical year. The work under the consent decree will be completed within 25 years.

  • Wastewater Treatment Plant Upgrades

The consent decree requires the city to complete the following wastewater treatment plant upgrades: headworks improvements; feed and generator improvements; aeration improvements; installation of a supervisory control and data acquisition system; disinfection improvements; effluent pumping improvements; secondary settling and sludge pumping improvements; primary settling improvements; and biosolids improvements. The upgrades will be completed over a period of 25 years. 

  • Sewer System Rehabilitation and Replacement

The consent decree requires the city to complete 40 miles of sewer system rehabilitation and replacement work. The city will prioritize the work based on severity of defects identified, likelihood of pipe failure, consequence of pipe failure, maintenance history, contribution of inflow and infiltration, and history of discharges or releases from the sanitary portion of the city’s sewer system. The rehabilitation and replacement work will be completed over a period of 25 years.  

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Pollutant Reductions

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

  • 285,149 pounds of total suspended solids;
  • 44,033 pounds of biochemical oxygen demand;
  • 942 pounds of total nitrogen; and
  • 4,009 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 $55,000 to the United States and the State of Ohio for its violations of the CWA, to be split evenly.

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Supplemental Environmental Project

The city will spend $200,000 on a supplemental environmental project (SEP) involving the capping of a designated portion of the sediment bed in the hydraulic canal. These sediments have been impacted by historical industrial use of the hydraulic canal. The SEP will effectively eliminate exposure of benthic organisms to cadmium in impacted sediments in the subject area. Such capping should also serve to minimize potential erosion and entrainment of impacted sediment downstream towards the Great Miami River.

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State Partner

The State of Ohio, acting through the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, will join as a co‑plaintiff and bring its own parallel claims under Ohio state law, specifically Chapter 6111 of the Ohio Revised Code and rules promulgated thereunder.

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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 website.  

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Contact Information

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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