Oswego to Invest $87 M in Sewers to Comply with Clean Water Act
To resolve long-standing problems with unpermitted sewer overflows, the city of Oswego, N.Y., will invest an estimated $87 million in improvements to its west side sewer system, the Justice Department and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced last week. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation was also a partner in the agreement .
The city’s west side sewer system, which serves approximately 10,000 people, is designed to transport the city’s sewage to a wastewater treatment plant for treatment prior to discharge into Lake Ontario. The system includes both combined and sanitary components. The combined system collects and transports household sewage and industrial wastewater, as well as rainwater and street runoff, using the same pipes, whereas the sanitary component uses a separate set of pipes to collect and transport sewage and wastewater only. Overflows from the city’s collection system discharge raw sewage directly to waterbodies and can be a major source of water pollution.
Heavy rainfall or snowmelt often overwhelms the capacity of the system, resulting in sewer overflows that discharge contaminated stormwater and untreated human and industrial waste to local waterways.
The improvements to the city’s sewer system, to be implemented under the settlement lodged in federal court in Syracuse, N.Y., will significantly reduce the number of sewer overflows. The city also will pay a penalty of $99,000. The settlement resolves claims against the city by both the United States and the state of New York.
Under the settlement, the city has agreed to undertake a comprehensive, system-wide program that will bring the city into compliance with the Clean Water Act. Specific measures include at least 75 percent separation of the combined system into sanitary and stormwater components, in order to prevent high volumes of rainwater from overwhelming the treatment plant, a 50 percent expansion of the west side wastewater treatment plant’s treatment capacity, disconnection of catch basins to reduce the inflow of rain water into the existing sanitary sewer system, major improvements to its operation and maintenance program, and sewer financing reforms.
“The required upgrades will greatly reduce the amount of pollution entering the Oswego River and Lake Ontario and result in a cleaner, safer environment,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.
The settlement, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court.