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Shelton, Conn. Fined $142K for Illegal Sewage Discharges to Housatonic River

Release Date: 06/19/2008
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017

(Boston, Mass. – June 19, 2008) – A major settlement involving federal and state regulators and the City of Shelton, Conn. will lead to improvements in the operation and maintenance of the City’s wastewater collection system and treatment plant, preventing discharge of untreated sewage to the Housatonic River.

The agreement is between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Justice, the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, the Connecticut Attorney General’s Office, and the City of Shelton, Connecticut.

Under terms of the settlement, the City eliminated its “wastewater treatment plant bypass” and agreed to implement a comprehensive, system-wide plan to ensure that overflows of raw sewage associated with insufficient wastewater collection system capacity are eliminated by July 30, 2010. Discharges of untreated sanitary sewage to waters of the United States violate the federal Clean Water Act and state environmental laws. The City will also pay a fine of $142,000. The fine will be split equally between the United States and the State of Connecticut.

"EPA is committed to taking action to bring aging sewer systems into compliance with the Clean Water Act," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator for EPA’s New England office. "This settlement will significantly improve water quality in the lower Housatonic River, helping to protect public health and the environment from the risks posed by sewer overflows."

Historically, the City’s collection system was combined, handling both sanitary sewage and storm water during periods of wet weather. During the 1980's, the City separated much of the collection system and eliminated designated combined sewer overflow outfalls. However, the City maintained a wastewater treatment bypass to the Housatonic River from a manhole immediately prior to the headworks of the City’s wastewater treatment plant. The City’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit does not authorize discharges from any location other than the wastewater treatment plant’s outfall, which discharges treated wastewater to the Housatonic River.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said, "Shelton's agreement is a victory for clean water and public health, halting sewage spills that have polluted the Housatonic River. This agreement means cleaner water, more fish and other wildlife and more people enjoying this scenic waterway."

Connecticut Dept. of Environmental Protection Commissioner Gina McCarthy said, "This case focuses our attention on the need for all levels of government to work together to protect water bodies and the public health. People expect that in this day and age, we will not have overflows of untreated raw sewage into one of this state's waterways. It is the responsibility of public officials at all levels of government to prevent this from occurring by seeking proper solutions to the management of storm water and sanitary sewer discharges."

Reports provided by the City indicated that millions of gallons of untreated sewage were discharged to the Housatonic River since 2000 – especially during wet-weather periods. Shelton recently completed the expansion of its undersized wastewater treatment plant, pursuant to an administrative order from the CT DEP in 2002, and as of July 2007, the City certified to EPA that it had sealed the bypass outfall.

Properly designed, operated and maintained sanitary sewer systems collect and convey sewage to a wastewater treatment facility prior to discharge. However, discharges of raw sewage from municipal sanitary sewers can occur.

These types of discharges, called sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs), have a variety of causes, including insufficient conveyance and treatment capacity that occurs, in part, due to clean water that infiltrates into collection systems through defects in the system or clean water that is improperly discharged directly to wastewater collection systems through cross connections with storm sewers and by individual homeowners through sump pumps, roof leaders or down spouts, yard and foundation drains.

SSOs also occur due to the improper discharge of fats, oils and grease to the collection system, debris deposits and root intrusion associated with improper system operation and maintenance, electrical and mechanical failures and vandalism. The untreated sewage from these overflows can contaminate our waters, causing serious water quality problems. Raw sewage discharges can carry bacteria, viruses, and other organisms that can cause life threatening ailments such as cholera, dysentery, infections, hepatitis, and severe gastroenteritis.

Because Connecticut law allows for “penalties” to be used to fund environmental projects, the State’s half of the penalty ($71,000) will be paid into a fund to be used to pay for environmentally beneficial projects.

More information:

- The Settlement Agreement (usdoj.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html )

-
EPA's enforcement of the Clean Water Act in New England (epa.gov/region1/enforcement/water)

-
EPA’s storm water program in New England (epa.gov/region1/npdes/stormwater)

# # #

Contacts:

U.S. EPA, David Deegan, (617) 918-1017
U.S. Dept. of Justice, Andrew Ames, (202) 514-2007
Connecticut Office of Attorney General, Tara Stapleton, (860) 808-5324
Connecticut Dept. of Environmental Protection, Dennis Schain, (860) 424-3110


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