Four Missouri Cities Are First to Begin Fixing Sewers Under EPA Strategy for Small Communities
Four Missouri wastewater treatment plants are the first in the region to begin fixing sewer discharge problems under a strategy for small cities developed by Region 7 of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and coordinated with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
Bolivar, Buffalo, El Dorado Springs, and Fredericktown have signed consent orders with EPA over the last month agreeing to the action. The cities estimate they might spend from $3 million to $6 million each to achieve the needed improvements. The strategy for small cities allows each city to take a strong lead in addressing its problems and to work closely with EPA and Missouri DNR to ensure their efforts are successful.
EPA Region 7 Administrator John B. Askew said, “We have worked closely with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and traveled together to each of the four communities to meet in person. We have discussed plans for ongoing improvements to the sewer collection system and treatment plant processes and how to achieve better fiscal planning for future needs.”
Each city has a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit authorizing discharge of treated wastewater. The permit limits the amount of pollutants that can be discharged and requires proper operation and maintenance of the wastewater treatment plant and wastewater collection system. The Missouri DNR will continue to ensure that, as the permits are reissued, they include conditions, limitations and schedules consistent with the new strategy.
Wet weather violations and other problems identified by EPA inspectors during routine inspections included sanitary sewer overflows, basement backups caused by plugged municipal sanitary sewer lines or lines unable to handle the loads, bypasses of all or a portion of the wastewater treatment equipment, and/or discharges from the treatment plants that exceeded the treatment capacity.
The wet weather violations can cause:
* Sewer and basement backups that release pollutants such as bacteria into areas where people could come into contact with them.
* Bypasses or discharges that can release untreated or under-treated pollutants (bacteria, ammonia, suspended solids, oxygen-demanding pollutants) to a receiving stream. It is not uncommon for these events to flush or push significant quantities of solids into the stream.
* Release of ammonia, suspended solids and oxygen-demanding pollutants that are very harmful to aquatic life and might reduce the number of smaller organisms in the aquatic food chain.
Each consent order sets a time frame for the community to complete certain tasks. The final orders include phased schedules for information collection, sewer system repair and maintenance, and planning. This phased approach allows the cities flexibility to address their needs as new information provides a better perspective on possible solutions. It will also allow the cities some flexibility based on their financial situation. There are no penalties associated with the orders.
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