Toledo Agrees to $433 Million in Sewage Collection Improvements

The Department of Justice, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the state of Ohio filed a Clean Water Act settlement in federal court in which the city of Toledo, Ohio, agrees to make extensive improvements to its sewage treatment plant and its sewage collection and transportation system.

The improvements are expected to cost at least $433 million over the next 14 years.

"This settlement is a great victory for the environment and the public, and it demonstrates that when the states and the federal government work together, even the most difficult and long-standing environmental problems can be solved," said Tom Sansonetti, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division.

"EPA's agreement with Toledo will improve public health and local waterways by eliminating nearly 800 million gallons of raw sewage overflows annually," said John Peter Suarez, EPA's assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance. "The settlement also ensures cleaner water well into the future through an upgraded wastewater treatment system."

The settlement requires the city to end its long-standing practice of discharging raw sewage into Swan Creek and the Maumee and Ottawa Rivers. Government experts concluded that these discharges, of up to 1 billion gallons a year of untreated sewage, may create unsafe conditions for swimmers and others, as well as causing severe biological problems like deformities in fish.

Under the settlement, Toledo will more than double sewage treatment capacity, build a basin to hold excess sewage and improve the sewage collection and treatment system. Because of the high cost of this work, the city held a special referendum on July 9 in which the majority of voters (78 percent) approved the settlement.

In addition to the sewer-system repairs, the city will pay a $500,000 penalty and spend at least $1 million to undertake two environmental improvement projects: restoring and providing public access to wetlands in the Duck Creek basin near the east bank of the Maumee River, and cleaning up contaminated properties near the Ottawa River to allow for further business development in an area of newly developed industrial enterprises.

"For years, Toledo has struggled to address environmentally damaging sewer overflows," said Ohio EPA Director Christopher Jones. "This settlement will result in a dramatic improvement in the health of Northwest Ohio's waterways."

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