As its number 1 priority, EPA will continue its enforcement focus on reducing discharges of raw sewage and contaminated stormwater into our nation’s rivers, streams and lakes. Older urban areas in particular have aging sewer systems that are not designed to handle heavy rainfall and snowfall, in addition to growing urban populations and industrial discharges. As a result, untreated sewage too frequently overflows from sewers into waterways, or backs up into city streets or basements of homes.
Raw sewage contains pathogens that threaten public health, leading to beach closures and public advisories against fishing and swimming. This problem particularly affects older urban areas, where minority and low income communities are often concentrated. In addition, stormwater runoff from urban streets and construction sites carries sediment, metal, oil and grease, acid, chemicals, toxic materials and industrial waste into surface waters. Many cities use rivers as the source of their drinking water, and contaminants in the water increase the difficulty and expense of treating the water for drinking water use.
The Clean Water Act requires municipalities to treat sewage before it is discharged and to control contaminated stormwater discharges, but many municipalities are not complying with these requirements. EPA’s enforcement efforts in recent years have resulted in agreements by many cities to remedy these problems, but the problem remains in many other cities. This National Enforcement Initiative will focus on reducing discharges from combined sewer overflows (“CSOs”), sanitary sewer overflows (“SSOs”), and municipal separate storm sewer systems (“MS4s”) in FY2011-13, by obtaining cities’ commitments to implement timely, affordable solutions to these problems, including increased use of green infrastructure and other innovative approaches.
Hello small cities in Kentucky, are you listening to me? Call me if you need to talk about your CSO and SSO problems before EPA knocks on your door.