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Southeast Facilities Ordered to Stop Discharging and Comply with Clean Water Act

Release Date: 09/14/2010
Contact Information: James Pinkney, (404) 562-9183, pinkney.james@epa.gov

(ATLANTA – Sept. 14, 2010) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued Administrative Orders (AOs) against two entities, one in Alabama and one in Tennessee, during August 2010 for violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA).

"By taking these enforcement actions, we are sending a strong message about the importance of protecting rivers, lakes and streams across the Southeast,” said Stan Meiburg, EPA Region 4 Deputy Regional Administrator. “To protect our region’s waters, these regulated entities must comply with the CWA and promptly take the steps needed to resolve the violations noted in our inspections.”

The Montgomery Water Works and Sanitary Sewer Board of the city of Montgomery, Ala., was cited for allowing unauthorized discharges of sewage from its sewage collection and transmission system, known as sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs). These SSOs also constitute a failure to comply with the requirements of its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits. EPA issued an AO requiring the utility to revise its SSO Reporting and Documentation Procedures and also to reduce SSOs by submitting a Grease Control Program Work Plan to ensure grease accumulations are not impacting its sewage collection and transmission system.

Hendersonville Utility District, Tenn., was also cited for discharging untreated sanitary sewage containing pollutants to waters of the United States at locations not authorized by a NPDES permit and failure to comply with operation and maintenance programs. EPA issued an AO requiring the utility to develop a SSO remediation plan. In addition, the AO requires the development of management, operation and maintenance programs, including information management, training, a sewer system inventory and mapping programs, among others.

SSOs are overflows or releases from sanitary sewer systems and are illegal under the CWA. Municipal systems with separate sanitary sewers may have overflows due to inadequate capacity of the sewer lines and/or at the wastewater treatment plant, etc. SSOs pose a significant threat to public health and the environment and remain a leading cause of water quality impairment. SSOs contain raw sewage and have high concentrations of bacteria from fecal contamination, as well as disease-causing pathogens and viruses. SSOs often occur in parks, backyards, city streets, playgrounds, and other areas that are frequented by the public, including children and pets.

Congress enacted the CWA in 1972 to protect the nation’s rivers, lakes and stream, as well as some of the more fragile and vital wetland habitats. The entities cited violated the CWA by failing to meet the requirements of their NPDES permits, and subsequently causing point source discharges. Pollutants of concern include nutrients, sediment, oil and grease, chemicals and metals. When left uncontrolled, water pollution can deplete needed oxygen and/or otherwise result in the destruction of aquatic habitats, as well as the fish and wildlife that depend on them. Water pollution can also contaminate food, drinking water supplies and recreational waterways and thereby pose a threat to public health.