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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 15, 2003

Pat Marida (614) 890-7865
Bryan Clark (614)461-0734


Sierra Club Files New Intent To Sue

Columbus - In an effort to protect public health and the environment, the Sierra Club today announced the filing of a 60 Notice of Intent to Sue the City of Columbus and its Division of Sewerage and Drainage for violations of the Clean Water Act. The Notice identifies Clean Water Act violations in Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) and in sewage overflows into Municipal Stormwater (MS4), and is an expansion of a previous suit filed in July 2002. Today’s Notice was prompted by the City’s failure to address the substantive issues in the initial suit, according to the Sierra Club’s Central Ohio Group.

In filing the 60 Day Notice, the Sierra Club is seeking smart investment in Columbus’ sewer systems to minimize Combined Sewer Overflows, stop raw sewage discharges into Municipal Stormwater, and end backups of sewage in basements. As a first step, this will require court oversight of a Long Term Control Plan that includes a firm capital improvement project list and clear timelines for completion, according to the Group.

While Columbus has a Long Term Control Plan, it is insufficient. Paul Novak, Manager of Permits and Compliance for the Ohio EPA Division of Surface Water recently testified in the federal Columbus sewer case that the city’s current Long Term Control Plan “is not adequate - we also don’t feel it adequately addresses the issue of water quality and meeting water quality standards.”

Notable among Columbus’ violations listed in today’s Notice are:

  1. According to Columbus Division of Sewerage and Drainage manager Mike Foster, for the calendar year 2000 there were 2659 complaints to the City of raw sewage backups into residents’ basements and “1634 were the City’s responsibility.” There has been no payment of just compensation.

  2. Columbus has not erected warning signs to notify the public of sewage overflows in parks and ravines as required by the OEPA in 1996.

  3. From April 2001 to April 2002, Columbus discharged nearly a billion gallons of partially treated sewage from the Whittier Street Storm Tank 018 outfall and over a billion gallons of raw sewage from the Whittier Street Storm Tank 019 outfall.

  4. Since 1996, according to Columbus, the City intentionally did not measure the wet weather discharges from sanitary sewers into storm sewers, even though required by law to do so.

The Sierra Club has also indicated its hope that Mayor Coleman will direct the Division of Sewage and Drainage to work with local residents and the Sierra Club to craft a Long Term Control Plan that protects public health and the environment

“Because the City has refused to deal with these problems - or meet with concerned citizens to hammer out a plan that works - we have been forced to seek legal help,” stated Pat Marida, Chair of the Central Ohio Sierra Club. “The problems are clearly very serious, because Ohio EPA has issued at least two Notice of Violation letters to Columbus for the same violations we noted over a year ago.”

“The City of Columbus continues to add more and more sewage to a system that is already too full,” said Jeff Cox, Executive Committee member of the Central Ohio Sierra Club. “It’s like dumping water into a sinking ship. The City of Columbus should have to answer for that irresponsible behavior and work with local residents to correct it.”

Index to articles on the Columbus sewers issue.

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