Reports are out that the EPA is negotiating a settlement with a major South Carolina city after years of investigation into the public wastewater treatment and sewage system operation. The city has been struggling for years with overflowing manholes and pipes that have collapsed due to age and neglect. Back in 2008, the sewer treatment plant was raided by environmental agents due to allegations that the City had tampered with wastewater tests. No charges resulted from the 2008 raid.
The City has spent considerable sums lately to address the problems with the system, but according to news reports, more needs to be done. It is reported that the City could face $1.5 million in environmental fines and $386 million in improvements over the next five years. Needless to say, customers have been complaining about their monthly bills doubling and even tripling.
For years, the City has been criticized for not keeping up with the needed maintenance and replacement of the systems. The deferred maintenance issue is playing out across many states where aging systems that are buried and out of mind are showing the stress of their age and past due repairs. This past summer, the city of Chattanooga, Tenn. was fined slightly under half a million dollars and ordered to make around $250 million in repairs to their systems. They also had to pay for the restoration of a polluted stream.
Wise planning and timely action can keep many system owners out of trouble. Operators and owners of systems would be wise to look at their record keeping and testing obligations to ensure they are meeting all requirements. Concerns and irregularities should be addressed with experienced professionals to address issues before enforcement actions are commenced