Downtown South Bend (photo courtesy of Downtown South Bend
Federal and state regulators have agreed to amend a 2012 Clean Water Act consent decree with the city of South Bend, a move they say will better protect the St. Joseph River and lower the cost of compliance. The U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management have agreed to the amendment.
It requires implementation of a revised long-term plan to reduce and treat sewage and wastewater discharges into the river to meet Indiana’s water quality standard for E. coli. The city says the agreement will save the city more than $400 million dollars.
“This amendment provides South Bend time to revise its long-term plan to further reduce and treat sewage and wastewater discharges to meet Indiana’s water quality standard,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.
Prior to 2012, the City of South Bend discharged more than 2 billion gallons of untreated human and industrial sewage and stormwater a year into the St. Joseph River.
According to the Justice Department, the 2012 consent decree required South Bend to reduce discharges to approximately 47 million gallons per year and reduce E. coli levels.
The revised plan includes the expansion of South Bend’s current sewage treatment plant, construction of three retention treatment facilities, and replacement or modification of various sewers.
Despite the costs associated with those infrastructure improvements, the city estimates that the revised plan will cost approximately $276 million, which is significantly less than the $700 million or more that South Bend estimates would be the cost to implement the remaining measures required under the 2012 consent decree.
The proposed amended consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period.