(EPA) “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) announced a settlement today with the Town of Timmonsville and City of Florence, S.C., to resolve drinking water and sewer problems. The proposed settlement, set forth in a consent decree, will resolve Timmonsville’s liability for violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA), South Carolina Pollution Control Act (SCPCA) and South Carolina Safe Drinking Water Act (SC SDWA).
Timmonsville has indicated that it has no capital to contribute to the short- and long-term fixes of the drinking water and sewer systems, estimated to cost approximately $12 million. On June 25, 2013, the citizens of Timmonsville approved a referendum measure authorizing the transfer of the systems to Florence. The proposed consent decree facilitates the transfer, and requires that Florence implement measures to bring the systems into compliance.
“The inadequacy of Timmonsville’s drinking water and sewer systems have posed a threat to public health and the environment,” said Stan Meiburg, Acting Regional Administrator for the EPA in the Southeast. “The transfer to Florence and the improvements required under the consent decree will result in tremendous benefits to the surrounding rural community and the Sparrow Swamp/Lynches River watershed.”
Timmonsville has had unauthorized overflows of untreated raw sewage and discharges of partially-treated wastewater, and has failed to properly operate and maintain its drinking water and sewer systems. Timmonsville has also failed to fully comply with numerous federal and state orders to correct deficiencies and, since 2012, has experienced increasing difficulty operating, maintaining and, in some instances, undertaking needed repairs.
“EPA and DHEC have been working together for years to bring Timmonsville into compliance, including issuing federal and state enforcement orders directing Timmonsville to take corrective action on its water and sewer systems,” said U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles. “It appears that the absence of capital has been one of the main obstacles to Timmonsville’s compliance. In a terrific show of cooperation and leadership, the Cities of Timmonsville and Florence together with DHEC and EPA have come together to forge a solution. This is a good result for South Carolinians.”
Though not responsible for the compliance failures, Florence has agreed under the Consent Decree to accept the transfer of the drinking water and sewer systems from Timmonsville and bring them into compliance with all applicable environmental regulations. This includes implementing capital projects designed to remediate known defects in Timmonsville’s drinking water system, sewer system and wastewater treatment plant. The improvements will eliminate unauthorized overflows of untreated or partially-treated sewage, and address operational and maintenance deficiencies in the drinking water and sewer systems.
When wastewater systems overflow, untreated sewage and other pollutants can be released into local waterways and onto residential yards and basements, threatening water quality and contributing to disease outbreaks. Similarly, when drinking water systems are not properly operated or maintained, bacteria and pathogens may enter the drinking water distribution system, contributing to public health risks.
Keeping raw sewage and contaminated stormwater out of the waters of the United States is one of the EPA’s national enforcement initiatives for 2011 to 2016. The initiative focuses on reducing sewer overflows, which can present a significant threat to human health and the environment. These reductions are accomplished by obtaining municipalities’ commitments to implement timely, affordable solutions to these problems.
The proposed consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval before becoming effective.
A copy of the consent decree lodged today is available on the Department of Justice website at: www.justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html
More information on EPA’s national enforcement initiative: www.epa.gov/compliance/data/planning/initiatives/2011sewagestormwater.html”
For more information contact PPM at 1-800-761-8675