San Antonio Faces $1.1 Billion Sewer Upgrade

     (CN) - The San Antonio Water System faces a $1.1 billion upgrade to reduce sewage overflows, plus a fine for violating the Clean Water Act, the Justice Department said.
     Tuesday's settlement comes the same day that the Justice Department filed its lawsuit, joined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Texas, will receive half of the $2.6 million civil penalty.
     The complaint accused the system of approximately 2,200 illegal overflows from its sanitary sewer system between 2006 and 2012. Those overflows allegedly discharged approximately 23 million gallons of raw sewage into local waterways in violation of its discharge permit.
     Rainfall was responsible for overwhelming the system's capacity problems and causing the overflows, sending untreated sewage and storm water into local waterways, according to the complaint.
     The EPA said it confirmed these violations during a 2011 field inspection and record review.
     As part of the settlement, the system will conduct assessments and implement remedial measures. It will also initiate a capacity-management, operation and maintenance program to proactively reduce sanitary sewer overflows.
     The $1.1 billion plan must be fully implemented by calendar year 2025, the Justice Department said.
     In addition to reducing sanitary sewer overflows in the early years of the consent decree, the sewer system will monitor water quality to identify other potential sources of bacterial contamination that could be impairing the Upper San Antonio River.
     The 1.3 million people living in Bexar County, which includes San Antonio, stand to benefit most from the upgrades, the Justice Department said.
     A 30-day public comment period must occur before a federal judge can give the consent decree final approval.
     At that point, the system will have 60 days to pay the civil penalty to the United States and the state of Texas.