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City agrees to comply with Clean Water Act

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Faced with hefty fines of more than $27,000 a day for violating the federal Clean Water Act, the city of Jeffersonville has reached a settlement with the federal and Indiana governments, the Department of Justice, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The settlement resolved long-standing problems with sewer overflows into the Ohio River and local streams.

The United States filed a suit simultaneously with the consent decree, alleging the city was discharging more pollution into local waterways than allowed by existing permits. In the suit, the U.S. was seeking between $27,500 and $37,500 per day for each violation of the CWA. The state was seeking $25,000 per day for each violation.

The suit and consent decree come as a result of violations to the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits issued to the city in 1999 and 2006. Jeffersonville's sewer system would carry overflow into streams and rivers when swollen with heavy rain or melted snow. Jeffersonville, the Department of Justice, the EPA, Indiana Attorney General, and state and federal governments have been negotiating a settlement for several years after the EPA and Indiana Department of Environmental Management investigated Jeffersonville.

In the decree, Jeffersonville agreed to develop and implement a long-term plan to prevent discharges of untreated wastewater by April 1, 2010. The city has until 2020 or 2025 to eliminate overflows to the Ohio River where feasible, as well as update and improve its sewer systems.

Jeffersonville agreed to pay a $49,500 civil penalty to the U.S. and $8,250 to the state. The state reduced its civil penalty from $82,500 provided the city completes supplemental environmental projects.

The total costs to upgrade the systems are estimated between $100 million and $150 million.

The consent decree is subject to a 30-day public-comment period and approval by the federal court. The decree can be found on the Department of Justice's Web site.

Jeffersonville took the initiative to try to fix the sewer-overflow problems, and was extremely cooperative throughout the negotiation process and negotiated in good faith, said Indiana Attorney General spokesperson Bryan Corbin.

The consent decree and suit were filed Thursday afternoon in U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana, New Albany Division.

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