United States Proposes Modification to EPA Consent Decree to Reduce Sewer System Overflows for the Hampton Roads Sanitation District

United States Proposes Modification to EPA Consent Decree to Reduce Sewer System Overflows for the Hampton Roads Sanitation District

The United States lodged with the U.S. District Court of Eastern Virginia today a proposed modification of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2010 consent decree with the Hampton Roads Sanitation District (HRSD) to require implementation of a comprehensive set of improvements to the sewer system to resolve longstanding problems with sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs). SSOs are releases of untreated or partially-treated sewage from a municipal sanitary sewer. They are especially prominent in older sewage systems due to deteriorating pipes and outdated sewage treatment systems. The HRSD sewer system serves 18 municipalities with 1.7 million residents.

“This modification to the consent decree will ensure that the sanitation district continues to take active measures to improve the sewer system for Hampton Roads and the surrounding region, resulting in a cleaner, safer Chesapeake Bay,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This modification will help ensure local communities’ access to the Chesapeake Bay for recreation as well as for commercial shell fishing.”

“Today’s modification requires Hampton Roads Sanitation District to address the decades long problem of sanitary sewer overflows,” said Acting Assistant Administrator Larry Starfield, for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “EPA and the State of Virginia worked with the HRSD to develop a long-term solution that will improve water quality for all communities, including those that are historically underserved and overburdened by pollution.”

Specifically, the modification will incorporate and enforce projects and schedules that are included in HRSD’s Regional Wet Weather Management Plan. Under the wet weather plan, HRSD will spend about $410 million between 2020 and 2040 on 15 priority projects to improve HRSD’s system and greatly reduce the frequency and volume of SSOs.

The projects are scattered throughout the Hampton Roads region in Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Virginia Beach, Williamsburg and York County. They will help protect water quality in the Elizabeth River, James River, Nansemond River and York River, as well as the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.

HRSD, as part of an integrated plan with its wet weather projects, will also implement a $2.2 billion aquifer replenishment project – known as Sustainable Water Infrastructure for Tomorrow or SWIFT. This project will involve injecting treated wastewater into an underground aquifer rather than discharging it to local surface waters, reducing wastewater discharges to the Chesapeake Bay by 90%.

Once the modification is finalized and approved by the court, HRSD would be required to complete six of the projects by 2030 and the remaining nine projects by 2040. These projects focus on increasing the capacity of the regional sanitary sewer system. Projects will include upgrading and replacing pump stations and installing multiple wastewater storage facilities. 

For more information on SSOs, visit: https://www.epa.gov/npdes/sanitary-sewer-overflows-ssos.

The modification to the consent decree, lodged today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court. A copy of the modification to the consent decree is available on the Justice Department website at http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.

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