Thursday, May 27, 2010

New EPA rule will target sanitary sewer overflows

sanitary sewer overflow 

The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today that it is initiating a rulemaking to better protect the environment and public health from the harmful effects of sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs) and basement backups.

In a news release, the agency said it finds that:

"In many cities, SSOs and basement backups occur because of blockages, broken pipes and excessive water flowing into the pipes. SSOs present environmental and health problems because they discharge untreated wastewater that contains bacteria, viruses, suspended solids, toxics, trash and other pollutants into waterways.”

The EPA said that the overflows may also contribute to beach closures, shellfish bed closures, contamination of drinking water supplies and other environmental health concerns.

Infrastructure issues were discussed at the Coming Together for Clean Water Conference held by EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson on April 15, 2010.

The agency says it plans to address these issues "as part of its efforts to protect public health and revitalize local waterways."

EPA is considering two possible modifications to existing regulations:

(1) establishing standard National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit conditions for publicly owned treatment works (POTWs) permits that specifically address sanitary sewer collection systems and SSOs; and

(2) clarifying the regulatory framework for applying NPDES permit conditions to municipal satellite collection systems.

Municipal satellite collection systems are sanitary sewers owned or operated by a municipality that conveys wastewater to a POTW operated by a different municipality.

As a part of this effort, the agency said it also is considering whether to address long-standing questions about peak wet weather flows at municipal wastewater treatment plants “to allow for a holistic, integrated approach to reducing SSOs while at the same time addressing peak flows at POTWs. “

The EPA plans to hold public listening sessions on the proposed rule.  The public also can submit written comments until 60 days after the rule’s publication in the Federal Register.

More information on sanitary sewer overflows, the potential rule and a schedule of the upcoming listening sessions.

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