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Galax, Va. sewage discharge settlement will reduce pollution in Chestnut Creek

Release Date: 11/15/2002
Contact Information: Roy Seneca 215-814-5567

Contact: Roy Seneca 215-814-5567
The city of Galax, Va. has agreed to a complete a two-year project to reduce water pollution in Chestnut Creek as part a settlement in a federal-state Clean Water Act lawsuit alleging unlawful sewage discharges dating back to the 1980s, and a 1997 chemical release that resulted in a significant fish kill, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Justice and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) announced today.

In a proposed settlement in federal court in Roanoke, Va., the city has agreed to pay a $50,000 penalty and complete equipment upgrades, and comply with operation and maintenance standards, to avoid raw sewage overflows and other unauthorized discharges. While the case was pending, the city completed a $1.2 million repair and overhaul of its wastewater collection system, including renovations of three pump stations.

“Under this settlement, the city will continue to take steps to prevent future pollution discharges into local waterways,” said Donald S. Welsh, regional administrator for EPA’s mid-Atlantic region. “The settlement deals with the past violations, and safeguards water quality now and in the future.”

“This case is one of many on which Virginia and EPA have closely cooperated,” said Robert G. Burnley, director of the Virginia DEQ. “This settlement appropriately addresses the violations in Galax, and we look forward to continued environmental improvements.”

The November 21, 2001 complaint, filed by the Justice Department on behalf of EPA, cited the city for unlawful discharges of raw sewage into Chestnut Creek and Oglesby Branch, two tributaries of the New River. The complaint also alleged that a pipe failure at the drinking water treatment plant in October 1997 resulted in the unlawful discharge of 2,400 gallons of polyaluminum chloride into Chestnut Creek, which killed more than 18,000 fish in a 9.5-mile stretch of the waterway. The plant uses polyaluminum chloride during the drinking water treatment process to help remove solids from the drinking water.

The complaint also cited Galax for failing to maintain required records of discharges from the drinking water treatment plant to Chestnut Creek from November 1993 to October 1997. In the settlement, the city neither admitted nor denied liability for the alleged violations, but agreed to comply with all applicable Clean Water Act requirements.

In addition to the $50,000 penalty ($20,000 to be paid to Virginia, with the rest to the U.S.), the city has agreed to a complete a two-year, $50,000 project to reduce water pollution from livestock and other agricultural operations along Chestnut Creek, upstream of the city.

The proposed settlement is subject to a 30-day public comment period, and final court approval.