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City of Lima, Ohio Clean Water Settlement

(Chicago - November 20, 2014) -  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the State of Ohio today announced a Clean Water Act settlement with the City of Lima, Ohio, to resolve claims that untreated sewer discharges were released into the Ottawa River during wet weather. The proposed consent decree, lodged yesterday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, requires Lima to make major structural improvements to control combined sewer overflows and to eliminate overflows from the sanitary sewer system. 

Overview of Companies and Location of Facilities

The City of Lima, Ohio owns and operates a sewer system that is comprised of approximately sixty percent combined sewers and forty percent separate sanitary sewers.  Lima owns and operates one waste water treatment plant (WWTP).

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Lima violated Section 301 of the Clean Water Act and terms and conditions of its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits. Lima’s alleged violations include frequent discharges of raw sewage and combined sewage to the Ottawa River, and WWTP bypasses of secondary and tertiary treatment. 

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Injunctive Relief

The proposed consent decree includes specific requirements to address WWTP bypassing, combined sewer overflows (CSOs), and separate sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs). The WWTP projects include major upgrades to increase the plant’s primary and secondary treatment capacity from about 30 million gallons per day to 70 million gallons per day. The CSO control measures include full or partial sewer separation to eliminate or reduce flow to 10 upstream CSO points and construction of a new thirteen million gallon CSO storage tank and pump system serving the downstream CSO points. The SSO improvements include upgrading pump stations and constructing new relief sewers in each of the seven sanitary sewer basins. Lima will also develop and implement a capacity, management, operation, and maintenance program to minimize SSOs caused by operation and maintenance deficiencies. Lima should have no more than five CSO discharges in a typical year once the WWTP and CSO control projects are completed. The SSO control projects should eliminate all routine SSOs. The total cost of the construction program could exceed $147 million.   

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Environmental Justice

The City of Lima’s service area includes minority and low income communities. Lima is a small, economically-challenged community. Median household income (“MHI”) in Lima in 2010 was estimated by the U.S. Census to be $26,943, down about $3,000 from the previous year. In contrast, the nationwide median household income was $50,046, almost twice that of Lima. When the injunctive relief is implemented, the settlement will help reduce the direct exposure of low income and minority populations in Lima to raw and combined sewage.

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Pollutant Reductions

Through the implementation of the proposed consent decree, the following estimated annual pollutant reductions will result:

  • 377,259 pounds of total suspended solids;
  • 62,727 pounds of biological oxygen demand;
  • 1,212,530 pounds of chemical oxygen demand;
  • 2,296 pounds of total nitrogen; and
  • 328 pounds of total phosphorus.

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Health and Environment Effects

  • Total suspended solids (TSS) – TSS indicates the measure of suspended solids in wastewater, effluent or water bodies. High levels of TSS in a water body can diminish the amount of light that penetrates the water column and reduce photosynthesis and the production of oxygen. 
  • Biological oxygen demand (BOD) – BOD is an indirect measure of the biologically degradable material present in organic wastes. High BOD means there is an abundance of biologically degradable material that will consume oxygen from the water during the degradation process. It may take away oxygen that is needed for aquatic organisms to survive. 
  • Chemical oxygen demand (COD) – COD is a measure based on the chemical decomposition of organic and inorganic contaminants, dissolved or suspended in water. As with BOD, high levels of COD indicate high levels of pollutants are present in the wastewater that will consume oxygen from the water, and may take away oxygen that is needed for aquatic organisms to survive.
  • Nutrients - Excess levels of nitrogen and phosphorus in waters can produce harmful algal blooms. These blooms contribute to the creation of hypoxia or “dead zones” in water bodies where dissolved oxygen levels are so low that most aquatic life cannot survive.

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Civil Penalty

Lima will pay $49,000 in civil penalties, which is to be split evenly between the United States and State of Ohio. In addition, Lima has committed to perform an Ottawa River stream bank revitalization supplemental environmental project (SEP) at an estimated cost of $218,400. The SEP will improve the condition of the river bank in 20 designated areas by removing dead, diseased, and compromised trees, and planting native grasses, wildflowers, and replacement trees to improve the environmental characteristics of the river bank. The SEP is expected to improve water quality and benefit the aquatic ecosystem in the Ottawa River. 

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State Partner

The State of Ohio is a co-plaintiff.

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Comment Period

Once the proposed consent decree is lodged with the court, the settlement will be subject to a 30-day public comment period. Information on submitting comments is available at the Department of Justice website.

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For more information, contact:

James Zimny
Water Enforcement Division
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW (Mail Code 2243A)
Washington, DC  20460
(202) 564-6551

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