VOL. 125 | NO. 25 | Monday, February 08, 2010
EPA, State Sue City Over Waste Water Discharge
By Andy Meek
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state of Tennessee are taking the city of Memphis to federal court.
They filed a nearly 20-page federal lawsuit against the city Friday alleging a series of major environmental violations.
The lawsuit is a civil action that seeks injunctive relief and damages from the city under terms of the federal Clean Water Act and the state’s Water Quality Control Act.
The federal and state governments focus on the city’s Public Works Department. They allege the department contributed to the discharge of pollutants from the city’s sanitary sewer system and two wastewater treatment plants in violation of state environmental permits issued to the city.
The complaint alleges that between July 2003 and this month, the city “discharged untreated sewage into Memphis area waters and other Tennessee waters.” Those actions occurred at “discharge points within (the city’s) sanitary sewer system, which were not and are not authorized by any (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permit.”
A spokesman for Tenn. Attny. Gen. Bob Cooper was not immediately available for comment to elaborate on the suit. A representative of Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr.’s office was not immediately available for a response.
The federal and state governments want a U.S. district judge to order Memphis to improve and maintain its compliance with all terms and conditions of its NPDES permits, the Tennessee Water Quality Control Act and all regulations for wastewater treatment plants.
The maximum level of civil penalties the city could face is high. The city could be on the hook for penalties of up to $10,000 per day that a violation of the state act occurred; up to $32,500 per day for each federal violation after on or after March 16, 2004; and up to $37,500 for each violation on or after Jan. 12, 2009.