READING – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) have reached a settlement with the city of Lancaster to take action in ending sewage discharge into local waterways from storm and sewage systems.
Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and announced in December by the EPA, the complaint was brought by the Department of Justice for the EPA and PADEP and claimed the city was in violation of the Clean Water Act with regards to the alleged discharge of untreated sewage into the Conestoga River from a wastewater treatment plant, sanitary sewer system and combined storm water collection systems.
The complaint states “the purpose of the Clean Water Act is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the nation’s waters.”
The plaintiffs allege that the city failed to develop and implement a long-term control plan in violation of the Clean Water Act.
The complaint states that the city failed on many fronts including, “failure to take adequate steps to control the accumulation of debris, grit and sediment in the combined sewer system,” and the “failure to eliminate the discharge of groundwater from the Lancaster School District that goes to the North Pump Station, which would increase storage in the defendant’s collection system.”
Other alleged failures by the city involved failures to modify operations manuals, maintain a list of facilities critical to standard operating procedures and educate personnel properly regarding wastewater treatment.
In the settlement, the city will be responsible for reducing combined sewer overflows and provide a long-term plan to improve how the entire system handles flow.
Combined sewer overflows occur when there is heavy rainfall or melting snow and the water volume capacity is exceeded. There are five combined sewer overflow (CSO) outfalls in the city.
According to a press release from the EPA, “The city has five CSO outfalls, which overflowed at least 392 times in the past five years, discharging nearly 3.8 billion gallons of untreated, polluted water into the Conestoga River, a tributary of the Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake Bay. These CSOs contain not only storm water but also untreated human and industrial waste, toxic materials and debris.”
Lancaster will pay a $135,000 civil penalty, split equally between the U.S. and Pennsylvania, and implement a $1.8 million supplemental environmental project that calls for the restoration of a 1,350-foot segment of Groff's Run.
The project will reconnect wetlands to the Conestoga River.