(STL.News) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Justice, and the state of Illinois today announced an agreement with the city of Peoria and the Greater Peoria Sanitary District (GPSD) that will yield significant reductions of sewage discharges from Peoria’s wastewater systems into the Illinois River and Peoria Lake.
The settlement resolves Clean Water Act violations by the city of Peoria and GPSD related to combined sewer overflows (CSOs) and National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit exceedances.
Under the proposed consent decree Peoria will implement a remedial measures program that will significantly reduce CSO discharges to the Illinois River and Peoria Lake. Peoria’s combined sewer system is currently overwhelmed by stormwater runoff during heavy rain or snow, causing CSO discharges to the Illinois River and Peoria Lake. These discharges consist of untreated human waste mixed with stormwater and contain high concentrations of bacteria, sediment, and other pollutants that impair water quality in the Illinois River and Peoria Lake.
The proposed consent decree provides Peoria flexibility to choose and build projects at periodic intervals as necessary to meet performance standards, reducing the number and volume of CSO discharges over time as projects are implemented. Peoria plans to use a high proportion of green infrastructure (e.g., permeable pavement, rain gardens, and bioswales) to achieve its performance criteria. Peoria’s overall CSO controls are estimated to cost approximately $129 million and will be completed by Jan. 1, 2040, with four interim milestones to ensure progress.
“This consent decree resolves years of violations by Peoria and GPSD of the Clean Water Act’s requirements relating to municipal sewer systems,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jonathan D. Brightbill of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The agreement will dramatically reduce the volume of pollutants discharged to the Illinois River and Peoria Lake and represents a successful collaboration between the United States and state of Illinois to reach a promising solution.”
“This settlement will provide a model for other communities that want the opportunity to demonstrate the effectiveness of green infrastructure and the flexibility to take advantage of improvements in green infrastructure technology over time,” said Susan Bodine, EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “I want to thank the state of Illinois and the city for working with EPA to develop a creative solution that will benefit city residents and surrounding communities through better water quality and enhanced recreational opportunities.”
“This consent decree strengthens protections of our state waterways by reducing pollution in the Illinois River and Lake Peoria,” said Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul. “Both bodies of water provide recreational opportunities for area residents. Under the consent decree, the city of Peoria will take important steps, such as utilizing green remedies, to improve water quality.”
The settlement also requires GPSD to implement improvements to maximize the flow of combined sewage from Peoria to its Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP), including cleaning its portion of the combined sewer system. GPSD will also eliminate the discharges from two remote treatment units within its sanitary sewer system by July 1, 2028. GPSD’s work will cost approximately $25 million and will be fully completed by 2032.
After the implementation of both Peoria and GPSD’s CSO controls, the average annual CSO discharges will be reduced by approximately 92 percent. In addition, approximately 696,000 pounds of pollutants will be prevented from being discharged to the Illinois River and Peoria Lake each year. The CSO reductions will improve water quality in the Illinois River and Peoria Lake and will allow for enhanced recreational opportunities.
The proposed consent decree also requires Peoria to develop a public participation plan that will involve Peoria’s residents in the implementation of the CSO remedial measures program and an enhanced CSO notification system to alert the public when a CSO occurs through a personal email address, if provided, or Peoria’s publicly available website. Finally, the settlement requires Peoria to pay a $100,000 civil penalty and perform a state supplemental environmental project. For the civil penalty, Peoria will pay the United States $75,000 and pay Illinois $25,000. The supplemental environmental project requires Peoria to perform stream and gulley restoration for Turkey Creek in the Springdale Cemetery area. In addition, GPSD will pay a $150,000 civil penalty, split evenly between the United States and Illinois.
The proposed consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval after it is published in the Federal Register.