News Feature | October 4, 2017

Report: Northeast Ohio Discharging Pollutants, Violating CWA

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga, Associate Editor, Water Online

Cleveland.Reg

A new sweeping report from one of Cleveland’s leading news outlets has found that hundreds of wastewater treatment plants in Northeast Ohio have been discharging pollutants in violation of the Clean Water Act (CWA) over the past five years.

Despite the $3 billion Project Clean Lake, a program meant to capture and clean 98 percent of the 4.5 billion gallons of stormwater and sewage coming to the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District each year, conditions appear grim.

“But even that federally mandated, 25-year program wouldn’t have prevented pollutants from 236 wastewater treatment plants in Northeast Ohio from being discharged into waterways over the past five years — in violation of the Clean Water Act,” The Plain Dealer reported. “These violators represent about 60 percent of the certified wastewater treatment plants in Northeast Ohio, according to data obtained from the U.S. EPA’s Discharge Monitoring Report website.”

Though it was found that many of the leaks have been small and likely to have had negligible, if any, effect on drinking water quality and human health, these discharges are often in violation of regulations. But that still may not have been enough to curb pollution in Ohio.

“When excessive pollution discharges are discovered, the Ohio EPA issues a notice of violation with orders to remedy the problem and bring the facility back into compliance,” according to The Plain Dealer. “Even with 236 plants having discharged pollutants in excess of allowed amounts in the last five years, there are no records of the EPA imposing fines or seeking a judicial order for an out-of-compliance wastewater facility.”

The Plain Dealer named five of the wastewater treatment facilities that were discharging the largest volumes of pollutants and pointed to out-of-date infrastructure as a leading cause for the violations. It also provided an online database that the public can use to search for treatment facilities that have had excess releases of pollutants.

Sadly, the fundamental problems in Northeast Ohio mean that these violations were likely unavoidable and pose a growing problem in the future.

“Given the problematic ingredients of heavy rain and snow melts, mechanical breakdowns and part-time, off-site plant operators, [Scott Sheerin, compliance coordinator at the Ohio EPA] said he’s not surprised at the 60 percent violations found by The Plain Dealer,” the report concluded.

To read more about wastewater violations visit Water Online’s Wastewater Regulations And Legislation Solutions Center.

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