MEMPHIS, Tenn. (Legal Newsline) - The city of Memphis has arranged a "comprehensive settlement" with several agencies that requires it to spend millions of dollars to upgrade its sewer system.
The settlement with the the Department of Justice, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and the Office of the Tennessee Attorney General was announced Monday.
The Tennessee Clean Water Network was an intervening plaintiff in the action.
Memphis will make an estimated $250 million of improvements to its sewer systems to eliminate unauthorized overflows of untreated raw sewage. A consent decree was filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee in Memphis. Memphis will pay a civil penalty of $1.29 million per the terms of the decree.
"The improvements required by this settlement agreement will bring lasting public health and environmental benefits to Memphis residents," said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division.
"We will continue to work in partnership with the EPA to enforce the Clean Water Act and will work with municipalities across the country to advance the goal of clean water for all communities."
According to the EPA communique, the consent decree requires Memphis to ensure proper management, operation and maintenance of its sewer systems to eliminate unauthorized overflows of untreated raw sewage. Memphis will be required to implement a comprehensive fats, oil and grease program. Furthermore, Memphis must develop and implement a sewer assessment and rehabilitation program to ensure that the sewer infrastructure is appropriately maintained.
Half of this $1.29 million civil penalty will be paid to the United States and the other half of the civil penalty will be paid to certain state projects. These projects include implementation of improvements to Memphis' Geographic Information System and implementation of an effluent color study to better delineate limits for the color of Memphis' permitted discharges to the Mississippi River.
"Violations of the Tennessee Water Quality Control Act due to aging infrastructure have become an all-too-familiar occurrence in various parts of Tennessee," Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper said.
"We hope today's cooperative agreement to improve the Memphis sanitary sewer system will help the overall health of our community, environment and economy."
The EPA said it has reached similar agreements in the past with numerous municipal entities across the country including Mobile and Jefferson County, Ala.; Atlanta and Dekalb County, Ga.; Knoxville and Nashville, Tenn.; Miami-Dade County, Fla.; New Orleans; Hamilton County, Ohio; Northern Kentucky Sanitation District #1; and Louisville, Ky.