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Central Ohio Group Issues

36 West Gay Street Suite 314, Columbus OH 43215
TEL: [614] 461-0734 FAX: [614] 461-0730

July 24, 2002

Albert J. Slap, Esq. (513) 771-7800
Pat Marida (614) 890-7865

Sierra Club to Enforce Clean Water Laws in Columbus

Suit Filed to Clean Up Local Streams

COLUMBUS - Today the Sierra Club called on the City of Columbus stop dumping untreated sewage into the Scioto and Olentangy Rivers, Alum Creek and other local waterways. According to a lawsuit filed in federal court today, the City of Columbus has been discharging billions of gallons of untreated human and industrial waste, toxic materials, debris and stormwater into local waterways.

"Columbus has refused to negotiate with the Sierra Club for a solution to the problem which would avoid litigation," said Pat Marida, Sierra Club's Central Ohio Group Chair. "Residents of Columbus are having their health put at risk and their local waterways polluted. This lawsuit is the only way we can be sure the City of Columbus will properly clean up the dysfunctional sewage system."

The Sierra Club lawsuit revolves around violations of Columbus' three Clean Water Act ("NPDES") permits. The permits that are being violated include the Southerly Wastewater Treatment Plant permit, the Jackson Pike Wastewater Treatment Plant permit and the City's Stormwater permit. The City has illegally by-passed its Southerly and Jackson Pike treatment works hundreds of days over the past five years and discharged billions of gallons of sewage into the waters of the United States, without the treatment required by law. According to Sierra Club's complaint, the City of Columbus is:

  • violating stormwater permit requirements and illegally discharging raw, untreated sewage from the City's sewer system into the stormwater system;

  • not complying with specific permit requirements to reduce and eliminate Combined Sewer Overflows;

  • by-passing raw, untreated sewage from the Southerly and Jackson Pike treatment facilities plants in violation of permit requirements, and;

  • violating other significant terms of the permits.

Serious water pollution violations exist despite a recent consent decree that attempts to force the City to correct sanitary sewer overflows and to pay civil penalties to the State of Ohio. Despite being forced to file the suit, the Sierra Club stands ready to work with Columbus to pursue a negotiated global solution to the City's illegal sewer discharges.

"After the Sierra Club began pursuing legal action last March, Columbus and the Ohio EPA met behind closed doors to reach a settlement agreement," said Marida. "These discussions were specifically timed to block the Sierra Club's involvement. The agreement reached - called a consent decree - has a lot of 'wiggle room' and deficiencies. We are convinced that unless halted by a federal court, the City of Columbus will continue to illegally dump sewage into our waterways."

Combined sewer overflows (CSOs) contain untreated human and industrial waste, toxic materials, debris and stormwater. According to studies performed by the Ohio EPA, CSOs are largely responsible for the bacterial contamination of the Scioto and Olentangy Rivers, Alum Creek and other Columbus area waterways. The Scioto and Olentangy Rivers do not meet Ohio's water quality standards because of this bacterial contamination. The City's stormwater (MS4) permit prohibits it from discharging sewage from its sewer system into the stormwater system. Through hundreds of illicit connections, the City has and continues to discharge raw, untreated sewage to the storm water system. Sewage illegally discharged to the City's stormwater system flows directly to rivers and streams without treatment and may pass through playgrounds, parks, schools, and other areas where the public may come in contact with the untreated sewage.

Index to articles on the Columbus sewers issue.

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