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City of South Bend - Indiana Settlement

(Hammond, Indiana - December 29, 2011) The United States Attorney’s Office and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced that the City of South Bend, Indiana has agreed to make an estimated $509.5 million worth of improvements to its combined sewer system to significantly reduce overflows of raw sewage to the St. Joseph River, which is a tributary of Lake Michigan. One well-known stretch of the St. Joseph River in South Bend, the East Race, is the site of an annual international kayaking competition and also is where Olympic kayakers and rescue workers periodically train.

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Overview of Sewer Authority and Facility Location

South Bend owns and operates a combined sewer system in northern Indiana. South Bend’s waste water treatment plant discharges to the St. Joseph River.  

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  • Combined sewer overflows (CSOs) resulting in the discharge of pollutants without a permit and, thus, violating Section 301 of the Clean Water Act (CWA), 33 U.S.C. § 1311.
  • Failure to comply with conditions of a permit issued pursuant to CWA Section 402, 33 U.S.C. § 1342.

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Injunctive Relief

The consent decree requires South Bend to implement a Long Term Control Plan (LTCP) by 2031. The LTCP includes wastewater treatment plant upgrades and collection system improvements. Currently, South Bend annually discharges into the St. Joseph River a total of over 2 billion gallons of untreated sewage during approximately 80 events. After implementing the improvements required under the settlement, South Bend will reduce the number of raw sewage discharge events by 95 percent to only four during a typical year of rainfall. The reduced discharges will result in preventing over 700,000 pounds of pollutants from entering the St. Joseph River each year.

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Pollutants Reductions

  • Total Suspended Solids = 566,916 lbs/year
  • Biological Oxygen Demand = 141,729 lbs/year

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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. 

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Civil Penalty

South Bend will pay a civil penalty of $88,200, which will be split evenly between the United States and Indiana. South Bend will also spend a minimum of $75,000 on a supplemental environmental project to help reduce pollutant loadings into the Bowman Creek, a tributary to the St. Joseph River. 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 Indiana is a co-plaintiff. 

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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. 

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For more information, contact:

Carol DeMarco
Water Enforcement Division
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW (Mail Code 2243A)
Washington, DC  20460
(202) 564-2412
Carol DeMarco (demarco.carol@epa.gov)

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