Evansville, Ind., to Fix Sewage Overflows, Pay $490,000 in Fines in Clean Water Act Settlement

The agreement would resolve allegations in a lawsuit the United States and Indiana filed in September 2009, alleging violations of its Clean Water Act discharge permits.

The city of Evansville, Ind., has agreed extensively improve its sewer systems, which will significantly reduce the city’s longstanding sewage overflows into the Ohio River, in a comprehensive Clean Water Act settlement with federal and state governments, the Justice Department, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the state of Indiana. The agreement would resolve allegations in a lawsuit the United States and Indiana filed in September 2009, alleging violations of its Clean Water Act discharge permits.

Evansville’s sewer system has a history of maintenance and system-capacity problems that result in it being overwhelmed by rainfall, causing it to discharge untreated sewage and combined storm water into the Ohio River. Under the settlement, the city will improve operation and maintenance, as well as develop and implement a comprehensive plan to increase the sewer system’s capacity to minimize, and in many cases, eliminate those overflows. Costs may exceed $500 million. Evansville must fully implement the plan, which may cost more than $500 million, by calendar year 2032 or 2037, depending on its financial health. Additional measures to improve the capacity, management, operation, and maintenance of its separate sanitary sewer system to eliminate overflows of untreated sewage will begin immediately.

In addition, the city will take immediate steps to upgrade the treatment capacity of its two wastewater treatment plants. In total, the measures the city will undertake will help eliminate more than four million pounds of pollutants and hundreds of millions of gallons of untreated overflows discharged into the Ohio River and Pigeon Creek every year.

"Evansville’s inadequate and aging sanitation infrastructure allows potentially harmful sewage and storm water overflows into the Ohio River," said Ignacia S. Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice. "As a result of this settlement, Evansville will implement significant measures to achieve the requirements of the Clean Water Act. Like other settlements we have reached in municipalities across the country with outdated sewer systems, this settlement will protect public health and improve the water quality for the local community."

"By reducing the volume of sewage and polluted runoff entering the Ohio River, this settlement will improve water quality and protect the health of people that use the river," said EPA Regional Administrator Susan Hedman. "The comprehensive plan will improve the performance and sustainability of Evansville’s sewer system and significantly reduce basement backups and overflows."

In addition to improving its sewer system, Evansville has agreed to pay the United States a civil penalty of $420,000 and the state of Indiana a civil penalty of $70,000. Evansville will also implement an environmental project that will connect homes with failing septic systems to the city’s sewer system at a cost of more than $4 million. Failing septic systems often contribute significant pollutants that can impair local water quality.

Evansville is located in Vanderburgh County on the north bank of the Ohio River in southwest Indiana. Its sewer system serves a population of about 163,000. Thirty-nine percent of Evansville’s total sewered area is served by combined sewers, while 61 percent is served by separate sanitary sewers. The combined sewers are located in the older, downtown portion of Evansville and lack sufficient capacity to transport all of the combined sewage that it receives to Evansville’s two wastewater treatment plants during rainfall. As a result, Evansville commonly discharges the combination of sewage and storm water through one or more of its 22 combined sewer overflow outfalls on the Ohio River and Pigeon Creek.