City of Chattanooga - Tennessee Settlement

(Washington, DC - July 17, 2012)The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Justice, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and the Office of the Tennessee Attorney General announced today a comprehensive Clean Water Act settlement with the city of Chattanooga, Tenn. Chattanooga has agreed to pay a $476,400 civil penalty and make improvements to its sewer systems, estimated by the city at $250 million, to eliminate unauthorized overflows of untreated raw sewage. Chattanooga also has agreed to implement a green infrastructure plan and perform an $800,000 stream restoration project.  

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Overview of Sewer Authority and Facility Location

The City of Chattanooga, Tennessee owns and operates a municipal wastewater collection, retention and transmission system that conveys municipal sewage to the Moccasin Bend Wastewater Treatment Plant. The system consists of separate sanitary systems and combined sewer systems. The City also collects and transports wastewater from external jurisdictions for treatment at the Moccasin Bend facility.


Chattanooga has violated Section 301 of the Clean Water Act and terms and conditions of its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination (NPDES) permits. Chattanooga’s alleged violations include:

  • sanitary sewer overflows,
  • discharges of sewage during dry weather from permitted combined sewer outfalls,
  • prohibited bypasses,
  • operation and maintenance failures, and
  • effluent limit violations.

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Injunctive Relief

The consent decree requires Chattanooga to assess and rehabilitate the entire collection system, including implementation of comprehensive injunctive relief within approximately 15 years, with the majority of the work being done in the first 10 years.

The remedial measures include:

  • development and implementation of a Long Term Control Plan,
  • early action projects at Chattanooga’s wastewater treatment plant,
  • evaluation and rehabilitation of Chattanooga’s wastewater collection and transmission system, and
  • development and implementation of a Capacity, Management, Operations and Maintenance program (CMOM) to insure the proper overall maintenance of the sewer system.

The City will also begin to implement a Green Infrastructure plan to reduce stormwater flows in the combined sewer portion of the City.

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Pollutant Reductions

Total Suspended Solids (TSS) 56,813
BOD5 53,812
COD 132,679
Total Nitrogen 7,655
Total Phosphorus 1,094
Cadmium 13
Copper 43
Lead 33
Zinc 244
Volume (Mgal/yr) 73

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Health and Environmental Effects

  • Total Suspended Solids (TSS) – TSS indicates the measure of suspended solids in wastewater, effluent or water bodies. High levels of TSS in a water body can diminish the amount of light that penetrates the water column and reduce photosynthesis and the production of oxygen. 
  • Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) – BOD is an indirect measure of the biologically degradable material present in organic wastes. High BOD means there is an abundance of biologically degradable material that will consume oxygen from the water during the degradation process. It may take away oxygen that is needed for aquatic organisms to survive. 
  • Chemical Oxygen Demand- (COD) is a measure of the organic compounds or pollutants in water and a measure of water quality.
  • Nutrients - Excess levels of nitrogen and phosphorus in waters can produce harmful algal blooms. These blooms contribute to the creation of hypoxia or “dead zones” in water bodies where dissolved oxygen levels are so low that most aquatic life cannot survive.

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Civil Penalty

Chattanooga will pay $476,400 as a civil penalty for its Clean Water Act violations. The United States and the State of Tennessee will share the penalty equally. Chattanooga agreed to spend $800,000 on a supplemental environmental project to restore an impaired stream in the City. The penalty in this case was derived according to the Clean Water Act Settlement Penalty Policy.

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State Partners

The State of Tennessee and the Tennessee Clean Water Network are co-plaintiffs.

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Comment Period

Once the proposed consent decree is lodged with the Court, the settlement will be subject to a 30-day public comment period.  Information on submitting comment is available at the Department of Justice website.

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For more information, contact

Lourdes Bufill
Water Enforcement Division
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW (Mail Code 2243A)
Washington, DC  20460
(202) 564-5128
Lourdes Bufill (bufill.lourdes@epa.gov)

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