Federal-State Clean Water Act Settlement Resolves Sewer Overflow Violations in Berkeley County, West Virginia
Corrective Actions to Protect Potomac River, Chesapeake Bay
WASHINGTON (Nov. 17, 2021) - The Berkeley County Public Service Sewer District in West Virginia will pay a $518,400 penalty, make extensive improvements to its sewer and stormwater systems, and implement a state-directed supplemental environmental project valued at $1.14 million under a settlement with federal and state authorities, the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) announced today.
The settlement, lodged today in federal court by the U.S. Department of Justice on behalf of EPA and WVDEP, resolves chronic alleged violations of the federal Clean Water Act and the West Virginia Water Pollution Control Act.
In a federal court complaint filed with the settlement, the United States and WVDEP cited Berkeley for exceeding pollution limits at its permitted wastewater treatment plants more than 1,300 times; allowing sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs) more than 500 times; failing to properly operate and maintain its sewage collection systems; and failing to develop and implement an adequate Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) program.
“Today’s settlement is a victory for protection of human health and the environment,” said Acting Assistant Administrator Larry Starfield for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “This settlement includes concrete requirements that will reduce discharges of sewage and other pollutants in Berkeley County, which directly translates to cleaner, safer water for local communities and communities downstream along the Potomac River.”
“This is a substantial federal-state settlement that highlights the cooperative efforts of EPA and WVDEP to protect the Berkeley County community,” said EPA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Adam Ortiz. “As part of this settlement, we look forward to Berkeley’s continued improvement of its sewer and stormwater systems to protect human health and the environment.”
“This settlement, done in partnership with the state of West Virginia, will ensure that Berkeley attains compliance with environmental laws protecting our waters and the citizens of Berkeley County,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Under the settlement, Berkeley will implement a comprehensive solution that will improve wastewater treatment and mitigate stormwater pollution.”
The settlement requires Berkeley to pay civil penalties of $432,000 to the United States and $86,400 to WVDEP. Berkeley will satisfy remaining penalties owed to WVDEP by implementing a supplemental environmental project. This project requires Berkeley to provide treatment for sewage from the White Bush Landing and Midway mobile home parks in Falling Waters, West Virginia, a project valued at $1,145,000.
In addition to the penalty, the settlement requires extensive improvements to Berkeley’s sewer and stormwater systems at an EPA-estimated cost of $50 million to ensure compliance with federal and state pollution control laws. Improvements include:
- Establishing a comprehensive MS4 program.
- Assessing capacity, mapping, and developing a medial measures plan for the sewage collection system.
- Evaluating and taking corrective actions at under-performing treatment systems.
- Training employees.
- Developing and implementing a pump station inspection program and corrective action plan.
- Conducting inspections and taking corrective actions to prevent stormwater and groundwater from entering sewer pipes.
- Educating the public on handling/disposal of fats, oil and grease.
- Requiring reports to keep EPA and WVDEP informed of problems and progress toward various consent decree milestones.
SSOs pose a substantial risk to public health and the environment, and include pollutants such as bacteria, pathogens, nutrients, untreated industrial wastes, toxic pollutants, soil and pesticides and wastewater solids and debris. Berkeley’s wastewater and MS4 facilities, which include approximately 245 miles of sewer pipes and multiple wastewater treatment plants, all discharge to the Potomac River or its tributaries, which are part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. By improving water quality, the settlement will benefit communities in Berkeley, West Virginia, as well as communities downstream of Berkeley, including communities that are historically underserved and disproportionately impacted by pollution.
The proposed consent decree, which has been lodged with the U.S. District Court in Martinsburg, West Virginia, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final federal court approval.
For more information on this settlement: https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/berkeley-county-public-service-sewer-district-west-virginia-clean-water-settlement .
For more information on sanitary sewage overflows, visit: https://www.epa.gov/npdes/sanitary-sewer-overflows-ssos .
For more information on the Clean Water Act, visit: https://www.epa.gov/laws-regulations/summary-clean-water-act .