St. Louis Call Newspapers

Department of Justice, MSD announce settlement

A settlement between the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District, the federal government and the Missouri Coalition for the Environment requiring MSD to make extensive improvement to its sewer systems and treatment plants was lodged last week in U.S. district court.

Under the consent decree, MSD will pay an estimated $4.7 billion over 23 years to eliminate illegal overflows of untreated raw sewage, including basement backups and to reduce pollution levels in urban rivers and streams. 

This injunctive relief is historic in its scope and importance to the people of St. Louis, according to a news release from the Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The settlement equires MSD to install a variety of pollution controls, including the construction of three large storage tunnels ranging from approximately two miles to nine miles in length, and to expand capacity at two treatment plants. 

These controls and similar controls that MSD has already implemented will result in the reduction of almost 13 billion gallons per year of overflows into nearby streams and rivers, the release stated.

MSD also will be required to develop and implement a comprehensive plan to eliminate more than 200 illegal discharge points within its sanitary sewer system. Finally, MSD will engage in comprehensive and proactive cleaning, maintenance and emergency response programs to improve sewer system performance and to eliminate overflows from its sewer systems, including basement backups, releases into buildings and onto property.

“We are fully committed to vigorous enforcement of the Clean Water Act, and will continue to work in partnership with EPA to advance the goal of clean water for all communities in our nation’s cities,” stated Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.  “The people of St. Louis, including those who live in minority and low-income communities, will receive tangible, lasting benefits from this significant settlement.”

“St. Louis, America’s Gateway City, grew up alongside the Mississippi. Unfortunately, for too long it treated the river’s tributaries as a dumping ground for sewage,” EPA Regional Administrator Karl Brooks stated. “By moving forward with this Clean Water Act settlement, the community is facing its responsibilities. This agreement will bring jobs and long-term economic investments while significantly improving the environment for future generations.”

The settlement also will significantly advance the use of large scale green infrastructure projects to control wet weather sewer overflows by requiring MSD to invest at least $100 million in an innovative green infrastructure program, focused in environmental justice communities in St. Louis, the release stated. 

Environmental justice communities include low income or minority communities who have suffered a disproportionate burden from air, water or land pollution. Green infrastructure involves the use of properties to store, infiltrate and evaporate storm water to prevent it from getting into the combined sewer system. 

Examples of potential green infrastructure projects include green roofs, bioretention, green streets, rain barrels, rain gardens and permeable pavement.

MSD, in conjunction with the city of St. Louis economic redevelopment authorities, will transform numerous vacant or abandoned properties to productive use – helping to revitalize disadvantaged communities and resulting in cleaner air and green space. 

The district will conduct public education and outreach, and collaborate with local residents and neighborhood groups, including those representing minority and/or low-income neighborhoods, in selecting the locations of green infrastructure projects.

MSD also has committed to spending $230 million in a mitigation program to alleviate flooding and another $30 million in enhanced pipe lining program, both of which are focused exclusively in environmental justice areas.  These programs and the pioneering green infrastructure program of the settlement will further the Department of Justice and EPA’s work to advance environmental justice, the release stated.

In addition to improving its sewer system and treatment plants, MSD will spend $1.6 million on a supplemental environmental project to implement a voluntary sewer connection and septic tank closure program for low-income eligible residential property owners who elect to close their septic tanks and connect to the public sewer. 

MSD also will pay a civil penalty of $1.2 million to the United States.

MSD’s sewer system collects and treats domestic, commercial and industrial wastewater from a population of approximately 1.4 million in the city of St. Louis and nearly all of St. Louis County. The system covers more than 525 square miles, and includes seven wastewater treatment plants, 294 pumping stations and more than 9,630 miles of sewer lines, making it the fourth largest sewer system in the United States.

The settlement resolves the claims brought by the United States in a lawsuit filed in June 2007 which the Missouri Coalition for the Environment Foundation later intervened under the citizen suit provisions of the federal Clean Water Act. 

In that lawsuit, among other things, the United States alleged that on at least 7,000 occasions between 2001 and 2005, failures in MSD’s sewer system resulted in overflows of raw sewage into residential homes, yards, public parks, streets and playground areas.  

Overflows pose a significant threat to public health and water quality because raw sewage can have high concentrations of bacteria from fecal contamination, as well as disease-causing pathogens and viruses, according to the release.  These overflows can occur in basements, backyards, city streets, and directly into stream and rivers. 

The decree is the latest in a series of Clean Water Act settlements that will reduce the discharge of raw sewage and contaminated stormwater into United States’ rivers, streams and lakes, one of EPA’s National Enforcement Initiatives for 2011 to 2013.

The settlement, lodged today in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and court approval.

In a statement, MSD officials said all parties in the lawsuit “have worked hard and showed great understanding to reach an agreement that continues to ensure the public’s health and safety, protects our St. Louis area waterways from unnecessary sewer overflows, and allows for robust investment in our region’s infrastructure and local economy.”

The statement notes MSD has spent $2.3 billion over the past two decades to eliminate more than 300 sewer overflows and that the consent decree “reflects the understanding that there has never been any question about the need for continued work to upgrade and modernize the nation’s fourth largest sewer system.

“Rather, the true question is how quickly this work is completed, which is the driver behind continued increases in monthly sewer bills.  While $4.7 billion over 23 years is a very fair agreement when compared to the dozens of other cities across the nation that have been sued by the federal government, the fact remains that this is billions of dollars that will come from the pocketbook of St. Louis ratepayers – with little to no state or federal assistance – and will be unavailable for other critical needs in our community.

“Beyond the regulatory issues, the St. Louis sewer system – like much of the infrastructure in our region – is very old and in need of investment and upgrades,” the district stated. “As MSD works to implement the consent decree, we will seek to highlight the need for renewed investment in all types of infrastructure, so that future generations may reap the same, if not greater, benefits that current and past generations have enjoyed.”

A copy of the consent decree and its appendices is available at

.

Copies of the document also are available by mailing a request to the Consent Decree Library, U.S. Department of Justice, P.O. Box 7611, Washington,D.C. 20044-7611. When requesting a copy by mail, enclose a check payable to the U.S. Treasury in the amount of $29.25 (25 cents per page reproduction cost).

A copy may also be obtained by emailing or faxing a request to Tonia Fleetwood at tonia.fleetwood@usdoj.gov or (202) 514-0097. A check for $29.25 for the reproduction cost must also be mailed to the Consent Decree Library.

The Department of Justice is now receiving comments relating to the consent decree. Comments will be accepted through Sept. 9.

Comments should be addressed to the Assistant Attorney General, Environmental and Natural Resources Division. Comments can either be emailed to pubcomment-ees.enrd@usdoj.gov or mailed to U.S. Department of Justice, P.O. Box 7611, Washington,D.C. 20044-7611.

The comments should refer to “United States, et. al v.Metropolitan St.Louis Sewer District, D.J. Ref. 90-5-1-1-08111.”

    Department of Justice, MSD announce settlement

    A settlement between the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District, the federal government and the Missouri Coalition for the Environment requiring MSD to make extensive improvement to its sewer systems and treatment plants was lodged last week in U.S. district court.

    Under the consent decree, MSD will pay an estimated $4.7 billion over 23 years to eliminate illegal overflows of untreated raw sewage, including basement backups and to reduce pollution levels in urban rivers and streams. 

    This injunctive relief is historic in its scope and importance to the people of St. Louis, according to a news release from the Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency.

    The settlement equires MSD to install a variety of pollution controls, including the construction of three large storage tunnels ranging from approximately two miles to nine miles in length, and to expand capacity at two treatment plants. 

    These controls and similar controls that MSD has already implemented will result in the reduction of almost 13 billion gallons per year of overflows into nearby streams and rivers, the release stated.

    MSD also will be required to develop and implement a comprehensive plan to eliminate more than 200 illegal discharge points within its sanitary sewer system. Finally, MSD will engage in comprehensive and proactive cleaning, maintenance and emergency response programs to improve sewer system performance and to eliminate overflows from its sewer systems, including basement backups, releases into buildings and onto property.

    “We are fully committed to vigorous enforcement of the Clean Water Act, and will continue to work in partnership with EPA to advance the goal of clean water for all communities in our nation’s cities,” stated Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.  “The people of St. Louis, including those who live in minority and low-income communities, will receive tangible, lasting benefits from this significant settlement.”

    “St. Louis, America’s Gateway City, grew up alongside the Mississippi. Unfortunately, for too long it treated the river’s tributaries as a dumping ground for sewage,” EPA Regional Administrator Karl Brooks stated. “By moving forward with this Clean Water Act settlement, the community is facing its responsibilities. This agreement will bring jobs and long-term economic investments while significantly improving the environment for future generations.”

    The settlement also will significantly advance the use of large scale green infrastructure projects to control wet weather sewer overflows by requiring MSD to invest at least $100 million in an innovative green infrastructure program, focused in environmental justice communities in St. Louis, the release stated. 

    Environmental justice communities include low income or minority communities who have suffered a disproportionate burden from air, water or land pollution. Green infrastructure involves the use of properties to store, infiltrate and evaporate storm water to prevent it from getting into the combined sewer system. 

    Examples of potential green infrastructure projects include green roofs, bioretention, green streets, rain barrels, rain gardens and permeable pavement.

    MSD, in conjunction with the city of St. Louis economic redevelopment authorities, will transform numerous vacant or abandoned properties to productive use – helping to revitalize disadvantaged communities and resulting in cleaner air and green space. 

    The district will conduct public education and outreach, and collaborate with local residents and neighborhood groups, including those representing minority and/or low-income neighborhoods, in selecting the locations of green infrastructure projects.

    MSD also has committed to spending $230 million in a mitigation program to alleviate flooding and another $30 million in enhanced pipe lining program, both of which are focused exclusively in environmental justice areas.  These programs and the pioneering green infrastructure program of the settlement will further the Department of Justice and EPA’s work to advance environmental justice, the release stated.

    In addition to improving its sewer system and treatment plants, MSD will spend $1.6 million on a supplemental environmental project to implement a voluntary sewer connection and septic tank closure program for low-income eligible residential property owners who elect to close their septic tanks and connect to the public sewer. 

    MSD also will pay a civil penalty of $1.2 million to the United States.

    MSD’s sewer system collects and treats domestic, commercial and industrial wastewater from a population of approximately 1.4 million in the city of St. Louis and nearly all of St. Louis County. The system covers more than 525 square miles, and includes seven wastewater treatment plants, 294 pumping stations and more than 9,630 miles of sewer lines, making it the fourth largest sewer system in the United States.

    The settlement resolves the claims brought by the United States in a lawsuit filed in June 2007 which the Missouri Coalition for the Environment Foundation later intervened under the citizen suit provisions of the federal Clean Water Act. 

    In that lawsuit, among other things, the United States alleged that on at least 7,000 occasions between 2001 and 2005, failures in MSD’s sewer system resulted in overflows of raw sewage into residential homes, yards, public parks, streets and playground areas.  

    Overflows pose a significant threat to public health and water quality because raw sewage can have high concentrations of bacteria from fecal contamination, as well as disease-causing pathogens and viruses, according to the release.  These overflows can occur in basements, backyards, city streets, and directly into stream and rivers. 

    The decree is the latest in a series of Clean Water Act settlements that will reduce the discharge of raw sewage and contaminated stormwater into United States’ rivers, streams and lakes, one of EPA’s National Enforcement Initiatives for 2011 to 2013.

    The settlement, lodged today in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and court approval.

    In a statement, MSD officials said all parties in the lawsuit “have worked hard and showed great understanding to reach an agreement that continues to ensure the public’s health and safety, protects our St. Louis area waterways from unnecessary sewer overflows, and allows for robust investment in our region’s infrastructure and local economy.”

    The statement notes MSD has spent $2.3 billion over the past two decades to eliminate more than 300 sewer overflows and that the consent decree “reflects the understanding that there has never been any question about the need for continued work to upgrade and modernize the nation’s fourth largest sewer system.

    “Rather, the true question is how quickly this work is completed, which is the driver behind continued increases in monthly sewer bills.  While $4.7 billion over 23 years is a very fair agreement when compared to the dozens of other cities across the nation that have been sued by the federal government, the fact remains that this is billions of dollars that will come from the pocketbook of St. Louis ratepayers – with little to no state or federal assistance – and will be unavailable for other critical needs in our community.

    “Beyond the regulatory issues, the St. Louis sewer system – like much of the infrastructure in our region – is very old and in need of investment and upgrades,” the district stated. “As MSD works to implement the consent decree, we will seek to highlight the need for renewed investment in all types of infrastructure, so that future generations may reap the same, if not greater, benefits that current and past generations have enjoyed.”

    A copy of the consent decree and its appendices is available at

    .

    Copies of the document also are available by mailing a request to the Consent Decree Library, U.S. Department of Justice, P.O. Box 7611, Washington,D.C. 20044-7611. When requesting a copy by mail, enclose a check payable to the U.S. Treasury in the amount of $29.25 (25 cents per page reproduction cost).

    A copy may also be obtained by emailing or faxing a request to Tonia Fleetwood at tonia.fleetwood@usdoj.gov or (202) 514-0097. A check for $29.25 for the reproduction cost must also be mailed to the Consent Decree Library.

    The Department of Justice is now receiving comments relating to the consent decree. Comments will be accepted through Sept. 9.

    Comments should be addressed to the Assistant Attorney General, Environmental and Natural Resources Division. Comments can either be emailed to pubcomment-ees.enrd@usdoj.gov or mailed to U.S. Department of Justice, P.O. Box 7611, Washington,D.C. 20044-7611.

    The comments should refer to “United States, et. al v.Metropolitan St.Louis Sewer District, D.J. Ref. 90-5-1-1-08111.”

      South St. Louis County News
      Department of Justice, MSD announce settlement