Settlement Calls For New Iberia, La., To Spend Millions To Correct Sewage Issues

Federal officials have reached a comprehensive Clean Water Act settlement with the city of New Iberia, La. Under the settlement, the city is constructing a new sewage treatment plant expected to cost $30 million and has agreed to perform an extensive characterization, evaluation and rehabilitation of the city's collection system designed to eliminate sewage overflows, estimated to cost up to $20 million over the next 10 years.

The federal government and the state filed a civil complaint against the city for violations under the Clean Water Act in June 2004. The consent decree, lodged on July 13 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana in Lafayette, represents the combined efforts of the federal government and the state.

"This joint enforcement action will bring long-term significant improvement to New Iberia's sewer system," said Kelly A. Johnson, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "This demonstrates the effectiveness of federal and state agencies working together to achieve compliance with our environmental laws."

Under the proposed consent decree, the city is building a new treatment plant, which will have substantially greater hydraulic capacity and replace the antiquated Admiral Doyle treatment plant. The city has agreed to expedite the elimination of certain high priority sewer overflows from the system. In addition, it will share in the cost associated with the construction, operation and maintenance of an equalization basin for the Tete Bayou sewage treatment plant. The consent decree also requires the city to adopt a plan for identifying and eliminating illegal stormwater connections on private property to the publicly owned or operated collection system; implement a maintenance program for the collection system to provide for the proper operation and maintenance of equipment; and develop and implement an emergency response plan to adequately protect the health and welfare of people in the event of any sanitary sewer overflows. The city will pay a civil penalty of $235,000 for past effluent and sewer overflow violations, one half of which will be paid to the federal government and half of which will be paid to the state.

"This agreement allows the community of New Iberia to move forward toward our goal of a cleaner, healthier environment for its residents," EPA Compliance Assurance and Enforcement Division Director John Blevins said. "The commitments made by New Iberia ensure the community will achieve compliance with environmental standards."

This article originally appeared in the 07/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.

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