EPA Sewer Agreement Information

Over the weekend, an inaccurate story came out regarding the Long Term Control Plan we agreed upon with the EPA. The news station who posted the article has since updated the story with an Editor’s Note, but we know there are questions and want to clarify as much as possible. 

This is all part of the Long Term Control Plan that we’ve been talking about as a city and with the EPA for over ten years. The lawsuit discussed in the story is the completion of the process, not the beginning.  The Consent Decree in the lawsuit represents the completed deal.

Every city in Ohio that was built in the same time frame as Middletown is going through this process and also has had to address these issues. That was the standard construction of sewers at the time.  It was the best practice in place at the time, over 100 years ago.  If you look at my earlier blog posts, you can see the large number of cities that have been or are going through this exact same process.  

The EPA didn’t file the suit until now because we were working together to resolve the situation.  Every Ohio city that has already executed their consent decree but hasn’t fully completed their obligations is still likely in violation in some manner with EPA regulations.

We issued a press release in December to further clarify the actions being taken: 

For Immediate Release

Agreement to Clean Water Act Proposed Consent Decree by Middletown, Ohio

Middletown, OH (December 21, 2017) — The City of Middletown, Ohio has agreed to the terms of a proposed consent decree with the United States and the State of Ohio to resolve threatened U.S. EPA and Ohio EPA enforcement claims under the Clean Water Act due primarily to combined sewer overflows (CSO’s). The proposed consent decree includes three major work components: 1.) Implementation of a Long-Term Control Plan (LTCP) to reduce CSO’s into the Great Miami River; 2.) Commitment to planned sewer system rehabilitation; and 3.) Commitment to planned waste water treatment plant (WWTP) rehabilitation. All of these components are to be implemented over 25 years (by 2043). The City’s agreement allows the City to avoid protracted, costly and disruptive federal court litigation, the results of which would be uncertain.

“This mutual agreement allows the City to prioritize critical infrastructure improvements to the sewer system and treatment plant that were already planned while improving water quality in the Great Miami River,” said City Manager Doug Adkins. “These improvements align with the City’s overall revitalization efforts to make Middletown a great place to live, work, and grow, transitioning from our bright past to our brighter future.”

Proposed Consent Decree Agreement Basics

  1. Long-Term Control Plan
  2. Construction of two large storage tanks and associated pump stations
  3. Storm Water Redirection Project including new storm sewer and pump station
  4. Green Infrastructure Project to divert storm water flow tributary to the Combined Sewer System into a regional detention basin
  5. Estimated Cost $112 million
  6. Sewer System Rehabilitation
  7. Rehabilitation of 40 miles of sewer pipewhich is at or near the end of its useful life
  8. Estimated Cost $74 million
  9. WWTP Rehabilitation
  10. Critical rehabilitation and upgrades to major treatment plant components which are necessary for the plant to remain viable over the next 25 years
  11. Estimated Cost $79 million

In addition, the City has agreed to complete a Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP) to significantly reduce the civil penalty for the alleged violations. The SEP includes capping of sediments in a designated section of the Hydraulic Canal adjacent to the STM/Wrenn Site. The project allows the City to obtain a “Covenant Not to Sue” from the Ohio EPA for the site under the Voluntary Action Program, which in turn will allow for future redevelopment of the site. The civil penalty has been reduced to $55,000 in consideration of this project.

“This project is a “win-win” for the City and Ohio EPA,” said Adkins. “It will create a clean, shovel-ready building site for future development consistent with the Downtown Master Plan.”

The proposed consent decree has now been filed in the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. The filling will initiate a 30-day comment period. Should no significant comments be received objecting to the agreement, the US Department of Justice is expected to file a motion asking the court to enter the proposed consent decree as final and effective.

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This plan helps to fix a century-old problem. It is a solution that not only solves the EPA combined sewer issue, but also upgrades our sewer plants and associated piping to maintain viability of our water and sewer infrastructure into the future. It also improves quality of the water in the river and addresses an old industrial brownfield site, making it available for redevelopment. 

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