Toledo Will Spend $315 Million to Eliminate Sewage Overflows

TOLEDO, Ohio, October 22, 2010 (ENS) – At an estimated cost of $315 million, the city of Toledo has agreed to make extensive improvements to its sewer system that will reduce the city’s sewage overflows into Swan Creek and the Maumee and Ottawa Rivers, the city’s main waterways.

Once the sewer system expansion is fully constructed as required under a legal settlement filed in federal court Thursday, Toledo will reduce its discharges of untreated combined sewage from an average of 35 times a year to an average of zero to four times a year, depending upon the watershed.

The Clean Water Act settlement lodged in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, modifies a 2002 agreement between the United States, the state of Ohio and the city of Toledo.

The 2002 agreement required that Toledo expand its treatment plant and build a large storage basin to capture stormwater combined with sewage during high flows for later treatment.

Toledo is under orders from the U.S. EPA to make improvements to the sanitary sewer system to eliminate sewer overflows. (Photo courtesy City of Toledo)

The parties understood that although the improvements were important, they were only the first phase of the work needed to bring Toledo into compliance with the Clean Water Act.

The 2002 agreement also required Toledo to conduct a detailed study of the combined portions of its sewer system and propose a plan of additional measures to eliminate or substantially reduce wet weather discharges from Toledo’s combined sewers.

Thursday’s agreement requires the city to implement this plan, which both the U.S. EPA and the Ohio EPA have now approved.

Under the amended agreement filed in federal court, Toledo has agreed to expand its sewer system far beyond what it originally proposed to the U.S. EPA and Ohio EPA.

“The Environmental Protection Agency is committed to enforcing laws that protect the public from exposure to discharges of raw sewage,” said Susan Hedman, regional administrator for EPA Region 5.

“This agreement shows that when vigorous enforcement is combined with creative and determined negotiation, municipalities, the United States and states can find workable solutions to improving sewer systems that are inadequate for modern needs,” she said.

The amended agreement relieves Toledo from having to build additional equipment at its wastewater treatment plant that was required by the 2002 agreement.

Given Toledo’s improved plant capacity and operational procedures, the additional equipment would provide less treatment capacity and environmental benefit than what is expected to result from the enhanced combined sewer overflow control measures required by the new settlement.

“This settlement will serve the citizens of Toledo and will result in dramatic improvements to the conditions of the Maumee River, Ottawa River and Swan Creek – meaning safer recreational use and a much healthier environment for aquatic life,” said Ignacia Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.

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