Frost Brown Todd attorneys help City of Lima to obtain first USEPA-approved integrated stormwater/wastewater decree to address wet weather issues, with expanded financial affordability criteria

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and Ohio EPA lodged the first USEPA-approved integrated stormwater and wastewater consent decree to address wet weather issues in the City of Lima, Ohio, on November 19, 2014.  The decree addresses the City’s wet weather overflows in a schedule of integrated projects designed not just to reduce overflows to acceptable levels, but also to simultaneously address the City’s stormwater control and future Clean Water Act obligations.  The decree is the first approved integrated plan under USEPA’s June 5, 2012, integrated planning policy.  Integrating the City’s stormwater and wastewater planning and obligations enabled it to obtain a longer, more affordable schedule that reduces the rate burden to the City’s residents and businesses. 

In addition, the proposed decree includes for the first time an agreement by USEPA to formally expand the list of financial affordability criteria that the City can present to support a modification to the compliance schedule if the City’s financial condition should change.  Historically, environmental agencies have largely restricted the assessment of financial affordability to the ratio of sewer rates to median household income under guidance issued by USEPA in 1997.  That guidance has come under severe criticism in recent years, as being outdated and for failing to consider numerous other factors that impact a local government’s ability to afford wet weather-related sewer projects.