EDITOR’S NOTE: The original copy of this story did not include information from the consent decree. Both documents have been added to this story. WCPO regrets this error.
MIDDLETOWN, Ohio -- The city of Middletown agreed to improve a significant portion of its sewer pipes to ensure its compliance with the Clean Water Act, according to a consent decree filed Friday.
As part of the consent decree, the United States and the state of Ohio are not alleging any wrongdoing regarding discharges into The Great Miami River, and Middletown is not admitting to any wrongdoing. The lawsuit alleged Middletown violated limits on allowable discharges into the Great Miami River.
The city agreed in the consent decree to improve about 40 miles of its sewer pipes and pay $27,500 (plus interest) in civil penalties. The city also agreed to pay penalties if its found to not be in compliance.
According to the suit, Middletown's publicly owned water works has permission to discharge pollutants into the river at eight specific locations as long as they are free of substances that would negatively impact animal and aquatic life, affect the color or odor of the river or "impair designated in stream or downstream water uses."
However, federal authorities found Middletown had violated those guidelines and introduced pollutants with high levels of chlorine, nitrogen, fecal bacteria and "suspended solids" into the river since at least 2008, risking the health of humans who use the water and animals that live in it.
The agreement outlines implementation of a long-term plan to reduce combined sewer overflows into the river and commitments to planned sewer system rehabilitation and planned wastewater treatment plant rehabilitation by 2043.
The agreement allows the city to avoid federal litigation should no objections be made in the next 30 days. It also allows Middletown to make infrastructure improvements to the sewer system and treatment plants, which will improve the water quality of the river, City Manager Doug Adkins said in a statement.