Pennsylvania Water Utility Agrees to Reduce Sewage Discharges

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have confirmed they have reached a settlement with a Pennsylvania water utility called the Delaware County Regional Water Quality Control Authority (DELCORA).

The settlement was based on allegations that DELCORA was in violation of the Federal Water Control Pollution Act (FWCPA) commonly known as the Clean Water Act (CWA) [33 U.S.C. §1251 et seq. (1972)]. The CWA is a federal law designed to protect the country’s waters. The EPA is the federal agency assigned to regulate the CWA. The EPA’s authority comes from Tittle 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations. The modern form of the FWCPA was written in 1972 with amendments in 1977 and 1987.

EPA alleged the DELCORA violated the Clean Water Act through combined sewer overflows (CSOs) at the Delaware River and its tributaries by impermissibly discharging untreated sewage, failing to developed an appropriate long-term control plan, unauthorized dry-weather overflows and effluent violations from one of its treatment plant. DELCORA agreed to create and implement a plan to control and reduce sewer overflows into the Delaware River, Chester Creek and Ridley Creek in southeastern Pennsylvania.

Terms of the Agreement

  • Implementation: DELCORA must developed and implement a long-term control plan to control CSO discharges in compliance with the requirements of the Clean Water Act.  The cost to DELCORA to manage these changes and comply with the Clean Water Act will be close to $200 million. DELCORA also agreed to begin the plan as soon as possible and to complete the project within 20 years from the date of the court settlement. DELCORA must also use modern technology, in the form of warning lights and flags, to alert the public to overflow discharges.
  • Fine: DELCORA also agreed to pay $1.375 million in fines for previous violations of the CWA. Half of the fines will be allocated to state fines and the other half to federal fines.
  • Community Involvement:  The settlement agreement is subject to a 30-day public notice and comment period, after which the final decree must be approved by the court.

The History of the Dispute

DELCORA services nearly a half million greater Philadelphia residents. When overwhelmed by stormwater, DELCORA’s the combined sewer systems  discharged raw sewage and other toxins into the regional waters. The volume of combined sewage from these overflows into the Delaware River, Chester Creek and Ridley Creek equates to about 739 million gallons each year.

The settlement is just one of many settlements that municipalities have been making nationwide to address poor infrastructure that has not been replaced or improved. The Philadelphia region settlement is a typical example of an older community that is finally responding to complaints from local residents, the EPA and the DOJ.

Pennsylvania Environmental Lawyers at Michelman & Bricker, P.C. Understand the Clean Act Requirements

Pennsylvania environmental lawyers at Michelman & Bricker, P.C. know the federal and Pennsylvania environmental laws that govern the methods required for any businesses that may produce storm water discharge. We work with our clients along with engineers, scientists, and environmental consultants to address Clean Water Act claims by state and federal authorities and help companies to reduce their own risks.

We have represented various clients in addressing alleged Clean Water Act violations. For example, we have previously represented a manufacturer in federal civil penalty action under the Clean Water Act for failure to comply with storm water discharge notification, monitoring and reporting requirements.  We have also represented the owner of conference center in negotiations with local municipal sewage authority to prevent degradation of water quality in lake from effluent discharges from construction of new sewer treatment plant.

Any company that has questions about environmental regulations, please call 215-557-9440 to schedule a consultation or contact us online. We have offices in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Cherry Hill, New Jersey, as well as in Massachusetts and in Puerto Rico.