Enforcement of Clean Air Act Results in Settlement with Atlantic County Utilities Authority
NEW YORK — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that the U.S. Department of Justice filed a motion on June 8, 2021 to enter a settlement with the Atlantic County Utilities Authority (ACUA) in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey that resolves violations of Clean Air Act and New Jersey Air Pollution Control Act regulations at ACUA’s wastewater treatment plant in Atlantic City, N.J. Under the proposed settlement, ACUA will take a series of steps to bring the facility into compliance with federal and state laws that protect clean air by reducing pollution from sewage sludge incinerators. ACUA will also pay a $75,000 civil penalty and fund a state-only project with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) to install electric vehicle charging stations in Atlantic County. The State of New Jersey joined the federal government as a co-plaintiff in this case.
“This settlement means cleaner air for communities in Atlantic County with ACUA improving how it manages sewage sludge at its Atlantic City facility,” said acting EPA Regional Administrator Walter Mugdan. “If not done properly, sewage sludge incineration can pose serious public health risks and this settlement will establish critical safeguards for how ACUA manages, monitors and reports this type of activity.”
“This settlement is an important step in protecting the environment and public health in the Atlantic City area,” said New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Acting Commissioner Shawn LaTourette. “We would like to thank Acting Regional Administrator Mugdan, the Department of Justice and the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General for their collaboration on this enforcement action. Improving the quality of our air and addressing sources of air pollution that impact overburdened communities is a priority for the DEP. We will continue to work with our partners at all levels to protect air for everyone in New Jersey.”
The federal government and the state had alleged that beginning in 2016, ACUA failed to develop required plans and operating parameters to comply with the sewage sludge incinerator requirements for the Atlantic City facility, which burns municipal sewage as a way to dispose of it. Sewage sludge can contain a range of pollutants like mercury, lead and cadmium that can pose public health threats when the sludge is burned.
Under the settlement, ACUA must take the following measures at the Atlantic City facility to bring it into compliance with federal and state clean air laws:
- Develop plans to manage sewage sludge, monitor for mercury emissions and prepare an annual compliance report;
- Establish site-specific operating limits to control air emissions and monitor compliance with those limits, and apply for a modification of its existing air emissions permit to incorporate these limits;
- Establish procedures to minimize and eliminate bypass events, which result in uncontrolled air emissions.
EPA estimates that the actions already taken by ACUA to comply with the Clean Air Act sewage sludge incinerator requirements prior to lodging of the settlement, and the additional actions required by the settlement, cost ACUA approximately $3 to $4 million. As part of the settlement, ACUA will also spend at least $30,000 to fund the installation of electric vehicle charging stations for public use in Atlantic County. If unable to find a government entity within Atlantic County willing to work with ACUA on the project, ACUA will instead pay $30,000 to NJDEP’s “It Pay$ to Plug In” program. The state program provides grants to offset the cost of purchasing and installing electric vehicle charging stations. The charging station project was included in the proposed settlement to resolve state-law claims and will be entirely overseen by NJDEP.
This settlement is part of EPA’s multi-regional initiative to bring municipal sewage sludge incinerator facilities into compliance with Clean Air Act requirements.