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City, EPA reach deal

Agreement cuts fines on sewage violations

Posted: Thursday, August 09, 2001

The city will pay a $30,000 fine for alleged violations at Mendenhall Wastewater Treatment Plant in 1999 in an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that is nearly final, said City Manager Dave Palmer.

According to the original complaint issued by the EPA in September 2000, the Mendenhall plant allegedly violated the Clean Water Act and its permit by exceeding the limits for fecal coliform on six occasions in 1999 and discharging raw sewage into houses, a parking lot and a drainage ditch on Aug. 29, 1999.

Palmer told the Juneau Assembly on Monday that the city agreed with some of the violations outlined in the complaint and disagreed with others. One good thing to come out of the experience was that capacity of the Mendenhall plant increased as a result of engineering work completed during the process, Palmer said.

Palmer signed the agreement this week, although the EPA has not added a signature to the document.

The EPA doesn't normally release information about an agreement that isn't finalized, but the agency likely will sign the document assuming nothing has changed, said EPA compliance officer Kristine Karlson.

A consent agreement final order doesn't require an admission of guilt, she said.

The EPA originally proposed that the city pay a $60,000 fine. As part of the agreement, the city will pay a $30,000 fine and replace pipes running under Mendenhall Boulevard with a culvert intended to improve fish passage, Palmer said. The project will cost about $60,000.

"We have a policy that allows us to reduce penalties if the party signing the agreement agrees to do a supplemental environmental project," Karlson said.

In fall 1999, raw sewage from the Mendenhall Wastewater Treatment Facility flooded through drains and toilets of eight homes and manholes near Airport Boulevard.

Since then, the city has spent more than $1 million on capital improvements at the plant. Additionally, operational changes have been made so a similar event will not happen again, according to an engineering report on the incidents prepared for the city.

Joanna Markell can be reached at joannam@juneauempire.com.



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