Louisville, KY. - The Kentucky Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet (EPPC), the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have reached a settlement with the Louisville and Jefferson County Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) on sewage overflows, Governor Ernie Fletcher announced today.
The settlement ensures that MSD will make extensive improvements, at an estimated cost of $500 million, to its sewer systems to eliminate unauthorized discharges of untreated sewage and to address problems with overflows from "combined" sewers that carry both untreated sewage and storm water.
Rainfall sometimes overwhelms MSD's sewer systems, resulting in unlawful discharges of untreated sewage and overflows of combined sewage into the Ohio River and its tributaries. The discharges amount to billions of gallons each year.
"This settlement represents a monumental step forward in improving water quality in the Commonwealth of Kentucky," Governor Ernie Fletcher said.
EPPC filed suit against MSD in state court in February, 2004 alleging unauthorized discharges in violation of federal and state laws. The cabinet and MSD have been negotiating since that time to reach an agreement. A consent decree, filed today in U.S. District Court in Louisville, represents the combined efforts of both the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the United States, which have entered into this settlement as plaintiff and intervening plaintiff, respectively.
"These issues have never been addressed in a meaningful way in Kentucky, and the cooperation of federal, state and local entities was key to moving forward expeditiously," Governor Fletcher said during a news conference overlooking the Ohio River. "It's a win - win - win."
Under the consent decree, MSD will propose and implement specific corrective action plans to bring from its combined sewer overflows (CSOs) into compliance with water quality standards and to eliminate unauthorized discharges from its sanitary sewers. It also must improve its management, operation and maintenance (MOM) programs to prevent future overflows and respond to overflows when they occur.
Sanitary sewers are exclusively used for untreated sewage. The worst discharges, representing about 75 percent of the total, must be addressed by 2013 at the latest.
"The collaboration of federal, state and local governments in reaching this agreement will result in significant improvements to water quality in the Louisville area," said U.S. Representative Anne Northup. "This settlement avoids a drawn-out legal battle so that the real issue can be addressed - clean water for our community."
The agreement requires MSD to pay a civil penalty of $1 million to the Commonwealth of Kentucky. It also must perform $2.25 million in Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs) under state supervision. The SEPs are to include public health screenings for residents of neighborhoods adjacent to the industrialized areas of Louisville's West End. MSD also is to perform, or provide funding for groups that will perform, efforts to raise environmental awareness and stewardship for the local and regional community. And it is to convert and reclaim the former Lee's Lane Landfill into an area for public use.
"This settlement shows our commitment to improving the quality of life for Louisville's families and continues the progress we're making to improve our air, water and land," said Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson. "It's a prime example of how local, state and federal agencies can work together to do the right thing for our people and our environment."
"Protecting the Commonwealth's waters is one of the top priorities of our Cabinet," added Kentucky EPPC secretary LaJuana Wilcher. "We plan to continue working with other communities on wet weather issues such as CSOs and storm water. That's vital to improving our water quality."
MSD was created to provide sanitary sewer and storm water drainage service for residential, commercial and industrial entities throughout Louisville and Jefferson County. MSD is responsible for the operation and maintenance of six major regional wastewater treatment facilities, 21 minor treatment plants and approximately 3,000 miles of sewer lines.
Twenty-three percent of these sewer lines are served by a combined system of single pipes that carry both untreated sewage and storm water to the Morris Forman Waste Water Treatment Plant. The remaining 77 percent of MSD's system carries untreated sewage only.
Unauthorized discharges of untreated sewage from the separated system have averaged 175 million gallons a year. In 2004, however, unauthorized discharges totaled 500 million gallons. In addition, CSOs of untreated sewage and storm water have averaged 4.5 billion gallons annually. These unauthorized discharges and CSOs have affected water quality in the Ohio River and its tributaries, including Beargrass Creek.