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Fort Wayne Faces $250 Million Bill for Sewer Upgrades

FORT WAYNE, Indiana, January 2, 2008 (ENS) – The City of Fort Wayne, Indiana has agreed to make an estimated $250 million worth of improvements to resolve longstanding problems with overflows from its sewer system, the U.S. Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency announced late last week.

The improvements are expected to reduce the volume of Fort Wayne’s untreated combined sewer overflow discharges by 900 million gallons in an average year.

The city’s sewer system, which serves 220,000 people, transports sewage for treatment at a wastewater treatment plant before discharging it into area rivers and streams.

But an average of 60 overflows each year from the city’s collection system discharge raw sewage directly into rivers and streams and are a major source of water pollution.

The Justice Department says these discharges violate the Clean Water Act because they exceed limitations and conditions in the city’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits or are otherwise unpermitted.

Other violations by Fort Wayne are also alleged, including the failure to comply with monitoring and reporting requirements of its permit and the failure to meet effluent limitations at the pipe leading from the city’s wastewater treatment plant.

The improvements to the city’s sewer system are expected to reduce the number of overflows to about one per year on the St. Joseph River and four per year on the St. Mary’s and Maumee Rivers.

In addition, the city will pay a penalty of $538,380, which will be divided evenly between the United States and the state of Indiana.

The city also has agreed to spend $400,000 on a supplemental environmental project to eliminate failing septic systems, and the city can reduce the portion of the penalty to be paid to the state by undertaking further reductions in the number of failing septic systems.

“With today’s consent decree, the City of Fort Wayne is taking an important step toward complying with the Clean Water Act,” said Ronald Tenpas, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, announcing the agreement on December 28, 2007.

“We are pleased that we have reached a resolution to these matters, and that the city has agreed to make the necessary improvements and committed funds to ensure significant improvements to reduce untreated sewer discharges,” Tenpas said.

“EPA is very pleased that in this agreement Fort Wayne has committed to getting rid of longstanding sewerage problems,” said EPA Regional Administrator Mary Gade.

“The city is making a major investment in improvements to its sewerage system that will pay off in better protection of public health and cleaner rivers,” she said. “The St. Joseph, St. Mary’s and Maumee Rivers in particular will benefit from the new controls.”

Lodged in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, the consent decree will be subject to a 30-day public comment period and subsequent judicial approval. It is on the Justice Department website at www.usdoj.gov.

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