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City of Tyler, Texas Clean Water Act Settlement

DALLAS – (Jan. 17, 2017) - Today the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the city of Tyler, Texas, agreed to significantly upgrade its sanitary sewer system to resolve alleged violations of the federal Clean Water Act (CWA). The city will also undertake extensive operational improvements to its sanitary sewer system and pay a total of $563,000 in civil penalties.

Overview of Sewer Authority and Facility Location

The City of Tyler owns and operates a separate sanitary sewer system, which includes the Southside and Westside wastewater treatment plants and the wastewater collection and transmission system. Tyler’s system consists of 600 miles of sewer lines and 22 lift stations. 

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Tyler violated Section 301 of the Clean Water Act and terms and conditions of its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits, which set limits for how much of a certain pollutant an entity is allowed to discharge into a waterbody. Tyler’s alleged violations include frequent discharges of raw sewage to waters of the United States and failure to prevent sanitary sewer overflows through proper operation and maintenance of its system. 

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Injunctive Relief

The proposed consent decree includes specific requirements to address separate sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs), occasional unintentional discharges of raw sewage from municipal sanitary sewers. Tyler will conduct a comprehensive assessment of its sanitary sewer system, including sewers, lift stations and force mains to identify defects and deficiencies that may lead to SSOs.  The city will fix or replace all sewer pipe segments and manholes that have been identified as likely to fail or cause SSOs.  All remedial measures must be completed within the next 10 years.  In addition, Tyler will evaluate and develop projects to address sewer capacity deficiencies. Tyler will also develop and implement a capacity, management, operation, and maintenance program which includes comprehensive system cleaning and a grease and root control program, to minimize SSOs caused by operation and maintenance deficiencies.  EPA estimates that the total cost of implementing these measures could exceed $65 million plus the cost of routine operation and maintenance.  

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Environmental Justice

Many of the manholes and lift stations from which SSOs occur repeatedly are located in areas with low income and minority populations. This settlement requires Tyler to consider low income and minority communities when prioritizing assessment activities and rehabilitation efforts to eliminate SSOs in those neighborhoods. When the injunctive relief is implemented, the settlement will help reduce the direct exposure of these communities in Tyler to sewage discharges.  

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Enhanced/Next Gen Compliance

Tyler will take measures to increase transparency by creating a public document repository that will include the settlement document (Consent Decree), any report required by this Consent Decree and all final EPA approved construction and maintenance plans to its website.

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Pollutant Reductions  

Through the implementation of the proposed Consent Decree, the following estimated annual pollutant reductions will result:

  • 510 pounds of total suspended solids;
  • 488 pounds of biochemical oxygen demand;
  • 79 pounds of total nitrogen; and
  • 11 pounds of total phosphorus.

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Health and Environmental 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. 
  • Biochemical 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. 
  • 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

Tyler will pay a civil penalty of $563,000 which will be split equally between the United States and the State of Texas. 

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State Partner

The State of Texas 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.

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For more information, contact:

James Vinch
Water Enforcement Division
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW (Mail Code 2243A)
Washington, DC 20460
(202) 564-1256

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