The City of Newport, RI Will Upgrade Facilities and Pay Fine to Settle Clean Water Violations

Under the terms of a settlement lodged in federal court, the City of Newport has agreed to eliminate illegal discharges of sewage into Narragansett Bay from its wastewater treatment plant and wastewater collection system. The City has also agreed to take actions to reduce the pollutants associated with storm sewer discharges to Easton’s Beach; purchase and distribute rain barrels to residents in order to capture stormwater for reuse; and take other actions to encourage low impact development. 

EPA estimates that Newport will spend about $25 million to address these issues. The City will also pay a $170,000 penalty to be split between the federal and state governments.

The settlement is the result of a federal and state enforcement action brought by the U.S. Department of Justice, on behalf EPA, the State of Rhode Island through the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, and the National Environmental Law Center on behalf of Environment Rhode Island and certain Rhode Island citizens. The consent decree alleged that Newport violated the federal Clean Water Act, including illegal discharges of sewage and stormwater containing bacteria and other pollutants that pose threats to human health and the environment.

Under this consent decree, Newport is required to develop a comprehensive, system-wide plan to address discharge violations at its wastewater treatment plant and eliminate overflows from its wet weather sewage treatment facilities at Wellington Avenue and Washington Street and from other points in its collection system. Planned actions include identifying and removing extraneous sources of water from its collection system by eliminating stormwater connections and repairing or replacing leaky pipes. The City will also take measures to reduce the levels of bacteria in discharges from its storm sewer system to Easton’s Beach. 

“EPA expects all municipalities to pay attention to critical elements of their wastewater infrastructure,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “Maintaining these municipal assets reduces the risk of service disruptions, the environmental and economic impacts associated with untreated sewage discharges and avoids the potentially higher costs to repair or replace them when they fail. This settlement will ultimately result in significant improvements to water quality and create a cleaner and healthier environment for the Newport community.”

While negotiating this agreement, the City has been taking corrective action and working cooperatively with all federal, State and environmental parties involved.

“Today’s agreement will help eliminate harmful overflows of sewage and stormwater by requiring comprehensive improvements to Newport’s aging sewer system – improvements that are required in order to bring the city into compliance with the Clean Water Act,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.  “Today, Newport joins a growing list of cities across the country that have met the challenge of upgrading their systems, and in doing so are improving public health and the environment for their residents.”

“Newport’s waters are treasured by all Rhode Islanders – they are vital to our ecology, economy, and quality of life,” said John Rumpler, senior attorney for Environment Rhode Island.  “The City’s decision to take responsibility for ending its pollution will be appreciated for generations to come.”

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