Memphis Agrees to Consent Order for Sewer Improvements

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Justice, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and the Office of the Tennessee Attorney General recently announced a comprehensive Clean Water Act (CWA) settlement with the City of Memphis, Tenn. Memphis has agreed to make improvements to its sewer systems to eliminate unauthorized overflows of untreated raw sewage. The city estimates such work will cost approximately $250 million.

?EPA is working with communities across the country to address sewage overflows that negatively impact the health of residents and impair local water quality,? said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA?s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. ?This collaborative agreement with the City of Memphis will reduce raw sewage overflows, protecting area waterways now and into the future.?

?The improvements required by this settlement agreement will bring lasting public health and environmental benefits to Memphis residents,? said Ignacia S. Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department?s Environment and Natural Resources Division. ?We will continue to work in partnership with EPA to enforce the Clean Water Act and work with municipalities across the country to advance the goal of clean water for all communities.?

A consent decree, filed April 16 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee in Memphis, represents the combined efforts of the United States and the state of Tennessee, co-plaintiffs in this settlement, and the Tennessee Clean Water Network, an intervening plaintiff in this action. The United States and Tennessee previously filed a complaint against Memphis on Feb. 5, 2010, seeking injunctive relief and civil penalties for Memphis? alleged violations of the Clean Water Act and the Tennessee Water Quality Control Act.

The major features of the consent decree will require Memphis to implement specific programs designed to ensure proper management, operation and maintenance of its sewer systems to eliminate unauthorized overflows of untreated raw sewage. In order to address the problem of grease buildup within the sewer lines, Memphis developed and will be required to implement a comprehensive fats, oil and grease (FOG) program. Furthermore, the consent decree will require Memphis to develop and implement a continuing sewer assessment and rehabilitation program to ensure that the integrity of sewer infrastructure is appropriately maintained to prevent system failures that would likely result in unauthorized overflows. The consent decree will also require Memphis to perform corrective measures in certain identified priority areas.

In addition to the control requirements, the consent decree will also require Memphis to pay a civil penalty of $1.29 million, half of which will be paid to the United States. At the direction of the state, the other half of the civil penalty will be paid by Memphis through the performance of certain state projects. These projects include implementation of improvements to Memphis? Geographic Information System (GIS) and implementation of an effluent color study to better delineate limits for the color of Memphis? permitted discharges into the Mississippi River.

Keeping raw sewage and contaminated stormwater out of U.S. waters is one of EPA?s national enforcement initiatives for 2011-2013. The initiative focuses on reducing sewer overflows, which can present a significant threat to human health and the environment.

Design-Build Gains Momentum in Cincinnati

A recent sign that public owners are continuing to embrace alternative project delivery methods for waste and wastewater projects is seen in Cincinnati, Ohio, with the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati (MSDGC).

On June 30, 2011, Ohio Governor John Kasich signed into law House Bill 153, which included the first changes in Ohio?s method of performing public construction in over 134 years. Ohio Construction Reform (OCR), as House Bill 153 is also known, now gives state agencies and local government the authority to use alternative project delivery including construction management-at-risk and design-build.

In March 2012, MSDGC Executive Director Tony Parrott made a decision to create a Design-Build (DB) section in the Project Delivery (PD) Division. Principal Engineer Ali Bahar will lead this section, reporting to Ralph Johnstone, the PD Division?s Sewers Chief Engineer. Bahar?s responsibility is to assist with identifying appropriate DB projects from the list of proposed projects in the annual capital improvement program. He will also work with internal staff and MSD consultants to prepare the DB policy and procedures to be used to execute these projects. In 2010, Bahar managed the 58,400-sq ft DB Gold LEED Wastewater Engineering & Education Center Project.

Recently, the Hamilton County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) approved an estimated $10 million DB project to address Combined Sewer Overflows in the City of Cincinnati?s Oakley neighborhood. This is the first DB project under OCR and there is another DB project currently under consideration.

EPA Approves Permit for Biomass Facility in Massachusetts

The EPA has issued a final Clean Water Act permit for the proposed Russell Biomass power plant in Russell, Mass. After a rigorous, science-based review, the EPA concluded that the final National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for the proposed facility meets the requirements of the Federal Clean Water Act.

The 50-mw biomass power plant is proposed to be built adjacent to the Westfield River, and to withdraw water from and discharge water back into the Westfield River. The final permit contains stringent protections including limiting the facility?s discharge of heat and other effluents to the water, and monitoring requirements to ensure the protection of aquatic organisms and habitat quality in the river. ?

The permit also ensures that the entrainment and impingement of fish and other river organisms is minimized with the requirement to use closed cycle cooling towers, which was determined to be the best technology available for controlling the adverse effects of cooling water withdrawal at Russell Biomass.

The permit was first proposed in 2009 and underwent a formal public review and comment period. Following careful review of comments submitted on the proposal, the EPA revised and strengthened various protections for the river, including: imposing monthly monitoring of aluminum levels; adding an ?average monthly rise? phosphorus limit, which allows no detectable difference between the intake and discharge mass of phosphorus; and quarterly turbidity monitoring requirements for the stormwater outfall locations as well as a location upstream.

The permit becomes effective on July 1, 2012. If information becomes available to the EPA which indicates that new or more stringent permit limits are needed to meet water quality standards, the permit may be modified.?

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