Boston, Mass. -- The City of Danbury, Conn. will pay a $30,000 fine and perform a Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP) at a cost of approximately $48,000 to resolve federal Clean Water Act (CWA) violations related to the operation of its wastewater collection and conveyance system.
The case stems from an inspection of the City’s Collection System in the spring of 2009. The inspection revealed many instances of releases of untreated sewage. As a result of these releases (aka “bypasses”), sewage backed up into the basements of private homes and businesses, and poured through manhole openings into streets.
Such bypasses of the Collection System are prohibited by the permit issued to the City by the Conn. Dept. of Energy & Environmental Protection (CTDEEP) under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program. In some instances, the City violated requirements that these bypasses be verbally reported to CTDEEP within two hours, and written reports provided within five days.
EPA alleged in its complaint that the City of Danbury failed at least 27 times to notify CTDEEP of such bypasses. In addition, untreated sewage entered storm water drainage systems, and flowed into nearby streams at least 15 times in Danbury, according to EPA’s complaint.
EPA also alleged that the City lacked a structured record-keeping and reporting program, which compromised the accuracy and reliability of its compliance with permit requirements, particularly those related to reporting bypasses to CT DEEP. EPA issued a compliance order to the City in Sept. 2009, requiring correction of these deficiencies and implementation of measures to prevent future bypasses.
Releases of untreated sewage from any municipal system represent a risk to nearby bodies of water. Sewage backups into homes and other structures can also damage property and threaten the public health.
EPA also alleged in its complaint that the City of Danbury failed to fully implement a Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure plan at its Department of Public Works complex. These plans lay out specific measures for preventing and responding to spills at facilities that store oil above threshold amounts and help ensure that a tank failure or oil spill does not lead to oil reaching bodies of water. EPA penalized Danbury in 2007 for similar violations at the same facility.
In addition to paying a $30,000 penalty, the City will perform a Supplemental Environmental Project. The SEP will consist of habitat restoration work along Lake Kenosia, in Danbury. The City will spend $48,000 to remove invasive species and plant native species to help slow down “eutrophication,” which occurs when runoff from human development, such as fertilizer, increases the rate of aging of a lake by causing excessive plant growth in the lake, causing it to fill in more quickly than under natural conditions. The SEP will also result in the enhancement of habitat for birds, fish and other wildlife.
EPA's Clean Water Enforcement in New England (epa.gov/region1/enforcement/water)