The city of Elyria, Ohio, has entered into a consent decree with the United States and the State of Ohio to complete a series of capital projects designed to eliminate discharges of untreated sewage from its sewer system into the Black River, 10 miles upstream from Lake Erie.
The projects that Elyria has agreed to implement will significantly increase the amount of wastewater that receives treatment and prevent overflows from sanitary and combined sewer outfalls when the system becomes overloaded. When completed, the water quality of the Black River, around which the City of Elyria is situated, will be greatly improved. Elyria is expected to spend nearly $250 million to improve its sewer system. It will also pay a civil penalty of $100,000 to the United States and pay $100,000 to Ohio’s Surface Water Improvement Fund.
The consent decree would resolve the violations alleged in the underlying complaint filed by the United States and the state of Ohio. The complaint alleges that Elyria’s sanitary sewers overflowed on more than 1,100 occasions since 2011, resulting in discharges of untreated sewage into the Black River or a tributary to the river. The complaint also alleges that Elyria failed to comply with a previous court order to stop these illegal discharges.
“The Clean Water Act requires adequate infrastructure to limit discharges of untreated sewage,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “These settlements require meaningful investments that will improve the health of the Black River and Lake Erie.”
“The City of Elyria’s infrastructure investment will not only reduce untreated sewage from entering the Black River, but also improve water quality for residents,” said Acting Assistant Administrator Larry Starfield of the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “EPA and the State of Ohio worked with the City of Elyria to develop a comprehensive solution to protect water quality.”
Under the proposed consent decree, Elyria will construct various projects within its sewer system to be completed by Dec. 31, 2044. The most environmentally-significant of these projects will be completed within the first 15 years. This includes completion of the city’s East Side Relief Sewer, increasing capacity at Elyria’s wastewater treatment plant, adding processes to mitigate the harm from any bypasses around the wastewater treatment plant, and 12 other projects that will control waste overflows or the flow of non-wastewater into the sewer system. Elyria will submit semi-annual progress reports to the United States and the state of Ohio until all work has been completed.
The proposed agreements are subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval after publication in the Federal Register.
More information about this settlement can be found here.
The consent decree, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval. The consent decree will be available for viewing at https://www.justice.gov/enrd/consent-decrees.