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EPA Inspector General Report Highlights Needed Changes in EPA’s Municipal Wet Weather Consent Decree Program

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NEWS RELEASE  

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
September 16, 2015

Contact:
Nathan Gardner-Andrews
202.833.3692
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EPA Inspector General Report Highlights Needed Changes in EPA’s Municipal Wet Weather Consent Decree Program

The National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) applauds a report released today by EPA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG), EPA Needs to Track Whether Its Major Municipal Settlements for Combined Sewer Overflows Benefit Water Quality, that highlights needed changes in how EPA approaches municipal wet weather enforcement actions. Specifically, the report notes that EPA must improve tracking and reporting on how the results of wet weather enforcement initiatives and consent decrees are leading to fewer sewer overflows and resulting improvements to water quality in receiving waters.

The report notes that a better understanding of the outcomes from these enforcement initiatives is necessary to ensure that the billons of ratepayer dollars being spent under these consent decrees are having meaningful environmental benefit. The report also notes positively that communities under consent decrees are making progress toward reducing sewer overflow events.

NACWA provided significant input to OIG during the investigation, explaining that wet weather consent decrees are among the most expensive public investments a community will ever make and highlighting the importance of ensuring these expenditures can be tied to specific, measurable environmental improvements. The report recognizes the significant financial impact of these projects – noting that communities nationwide are spending over $32 billion to comply with wet weather enforcement orders – and echoes NACWA’s position that EPA must do a better job of ensuring these public funds lead to actual water quality improvements.

NACWA believes a better tracking system focused on whether these projects lead to meaningful environmental changes will also promote more flexibility in how these agreements are negotiated in the first place. This will empower communities to have more say in how their ratepayer dollars are spent to ensure maximum environmental benefit in the most cost effective manner.

“NACWA believes the EPA Inspector General hit the nail on the head with this report,” said Adam Krantz, NACWA’s Chief Executive Officer. “As the report itself acknowledges, America’s public clean water utilities and the communities they serve are spending over $32 billion to address sewer overflows and are doing a great job in making progress. But our public agency members also have a responsibility to their communities and their ratepayers to demonstrate that these massive investments are making meaningful environmental progress, and today’s Inspector General report makes clear EPA has that responsibility as well. We look forward to working with EPA to ensure the enforcement process works better for our communities and our environment.”

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NACWA represents the interests of more than 300 public agencies and organizations that have made the pursuit of scientifically based, technically sound and cost effective laws and regulations their objective. NACWA members serve the majority of the sewered population in the United States and collectively treat and reclaim more than 18 billion gallons of wastewater daily.

 

 

 

 
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