Environmental Protection

Iowa City Agrees to Address Sewage Discharge into Miss. River

The city will be required to improve its combined sewer system over the next 20 years.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the City of Keokuk, Iowa, have reached an agreement by which the city will improve its combined sewer system over the next 20 years, reducing discharges of hundreds of millions of gallons of raw sewage to the Mississippi River and its tributaries.

Under an administrative compliance order on consent filed in Kansas City, Kan., Keokuk will submit to EPA and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) a long-term control plan for improving its sewers to reduce overflows. The plan is due no later than Dec. 31, 2012.

Once EPA and IDNR approve the plan, Keokuk must implement all the terms of the order, including requirements related to the long-term control plan, no later than December 31, 2030.

“This resolution will clean the water that sustains Keokuk's future and produce real benefits for everyone who depends on the nation's most important river, the great Mississippi,” EPA Regional Administrator Karl Brooks said. “I commend the people of Keokuk, and their leaders, for taking measurable action that secures the future of their key water resource and recognizes our obligations today to make water system investments for the future.”

Keokuk was required to develop a long-term control plan in 2002, when IDNR issued the city a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. Keokuk submitted a draft plan in 2006, but it failed to include dates for implementation and completion. EPA has been working with city officials in Keokuk to approve a plan since 2007.

An inspection by EPA in late November and early December 2010 found that Keokuk had violated conditions of its NPDES permit by failing to operate and maintain its wastewater treatment facilities in good working order, allowing overflows of raw sewage from the collection system into waters of the United States and private property, and the diversion of waste streams from its wastewater treatment works into the waters of the United States.

Since 2006, Keokuk has proceeded to complete several sewer separation projects without a final, approved, long-term control plan. Those projects include the elimination of one outfall, the replacement of the Bank Street lift station and force main; the completion of sewer separation associated with the Grand Avenue and Boulevard Road project; and completion of a sewer separation project for Belknap Place, Belknap Boulevard, and McKinley and Timea streets, at a combined cost of more than $2 million.

Initial projections by the City of Keokuk to implement the long-term control plan are estimated to be between $60 million and $100 million for total separation of the combined sewer system.

As part of the settlement, Keokuk has agreed to take a series of additional specific actions:

  • By July 1 submit a collection system management, operation, and maintenance program to EPA for review and approval.
  • By December 31, 2012, separate its sanitary sewer system from its stormwater sewer system to end combined sewer overflows at four outfalls into Soap Creek.
  • By July 1, 2013, conduct a sewer system evaluation survey and capacity assessment, and provide EPA with a report of the results for its approval.
  • By December 31, 2014, separate its sanitary sewer system from its stormwater sewer system to end combined sewer overflows at another outfall into Soap Creek.
  • By December 31, 2015, separate its sanitary sewer system from its stormwater sewer system at Victory Park.
  • By April 15 each year, submit progress reports to EPA outlining work performed during the previous 12 months, and projections of work to be performed in the next 12 months.

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