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Salt Lake County, Utah Clean Water Act Settlement

Overview of Storm Sewer Authority

Salt Lake County, Utah owns and operates a municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4). The County is authorized under a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit to discharge stormwater through its MS4 to the Jordan River, its tributaries, and tributaries of the Great Salt Lake provided it complies with all provisions of the permit. The County’s MS4 serves approximately 141,500 people and covers the unincorporated areas of Salt Lake County.

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The County failed to develop and implement a stormwater pollution prevention and management program that minimizes the discharge of pollutants to the maximum extent practicable in violation of Section 402 of the Clean Water Act and the terms and conditions of its NPDES MS4 permit. Specific deficiencies include:

  • The County failed to develop and implement a Stormwater Management Program (SWMP) that meets the requirements of its NPDES MS4 permit, and failed to provide adequate resources to implement the SWMP;
  • The County failed to conduct adequate wet weather monitoring;
  • The County failed to implement a program that minimizes the discharge of pollutants in runoff from industrial and high risk facilities;
  • The County failed to operate and maintain municipal facilities to reduce the discharge of pollutants from these facilities; 
  • The County failed to develop and implement a specific plan to detect and eliminate non-stormwater discharges to the MS4;
  • The County failed to develop and implement a program that minimizes the discharge of pollutants in runoff from construction sites; and
  • The County failed to develop, implement, and enforce a program to minimize the discharge of pollutants in runoff from areas of new development and redevelopment.

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Injunctive Relief

The Consent Decree requires the County to develop a written SWMP that meets the requirements of its NPDES permit, finalize specific plans and standard operating procedures to implement the SWMP, and provide adequate training to County personnel. The County must fully implement the final SWMP no later than April 20, 2016, must ensure adequate resources as of January 1, 2016, and must maintain adequate personnel to implement the SWMP by April 1, 2016.

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Health and Environmental Effects

Polluted stormwater runoff is commonly transported through MS4s and ultimately discharged untreated into local rivers, lakes and streams. Common pollutants discharged through MS4s include road salt, sand, oil and grease from roadways; pesticides, fertilizers and herbicides from lawns and parks; sediment from construction sites; and carelessly discarded trash, such as cigarette butts, paper wrappers, and plastic bottles. In addition, municipalities conduct numerous activities that can pose a threat to water quality if practices and procedures are not in place to prevent pollutants from entering the MS4. These activities include winter road maintenance, minor road repairs and other infrastructure work, automobile fleet maintenance, landscaping and park maintenance, and building maintenance. Discharges from MS4s also often include contaminated stormwater runoff from industrial facilities as well as illicit discharges of wastes and wastewater from non-stormwater sources. Illicit discharges can enter the MS4 through direct connections (e.g., wastewater piping either mistakenly or deliberately connected to the MS4) or indirect connections (e.g., infiltration into the MS4, spills collected by storm drains, or paint or used oil dumped directly into a storm drain). The result is untreated discharges that contribute high levels of pollutants, including heavy metals, toxics, oil and grease, solvents, nutrients, viruses, and bacteria to receiving waters.

When discharged into nearby waterways through MS4s, these pollutants can degrade water quality, thereby discouraging recreational uses, contaminating drinking water supplies, and adversely impacting fish, other aquatic life and wildlife. In addition, an increase in the amount of impervious surfaces (e.g., parking lots, driveways, and rooftops) resulting from new development can impact waterbodies by increasing the quantity and velocity of water delivered to the waterbodies during storms. This can result in streambank scouring and erosion and downstream flooding which can harm aquatic life and damage property.

The stormwater NPDES permit program requires municipalities to develop and implement a stormwater management program that is intended to improve the quality of local waterways by reducing the impact of new development and reducing the amount of pollutants that stormwater runoff and melting snow pick up and carry into storm sewer systems.

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Civil Penalty

The County will pay a civil penalty of $280,000 which will be split between the United States and the State of Utah. 

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State Role

The State of Utah is a co-plaintiff. 

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Comment Period

The proposed settlement, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval. Information on submitting comment is available at the Department of Justice website.

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For more information, contact:

Susan D. Bruce 
Water Enforcement Division
U. S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Ave, NW (MC 2243A)
Washington, DC 20460 
(202) 564-8329

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