City of Houston settles with EPA over illegal sewer discharges


Dept of Justice

The City of Houston has reached a settlement agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

The city will implement a comprehensive set of measures and improvements to the city’s sewer system to resolve sanitary sewer overflows and illegal discharges into the city’s waterways such as Buffalo Bayou and the Houston Ship Channel.

The Department of Justice originally filed the complaint on behalf of the EPA and the state of Texas in September 2018. The city has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $4.4 million.

The city of Houston operates one of the largest sewer systems in the nation, which serves nearly two million people. The system includes more than 6,000 miles of sewer lines, 390 lift stations, and more than 120,000 manholes.

The city will implement extensive measures to prevent sanitary sewer overflows and effluent violations. This will take over over 15 years at an estimated cost of $2 billion.

These include;

  • Increasing sewer capacity in certain areas where sewer overflows occur during major rain events.
  • Repairing at least 150 miles of sewer lines annually that are cracked or broken.
  • Implementing two major cleaning programs to reduce blockages caused by ‘fatbergs’
  • Improvements at wastewater treatment plants to reduce incidences of E.Coli, ammonia and other solid effluents.

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