By ecoRI News staff
NEWPORT — Under the terms of a settlement lodged in federal court, the city of Newport has agreed to eliminate illegal discharges of sewage into Narragansett Bay from its wastewater treatment plant and wastewater collection system, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The city also has agreed to take actions to reduce the pollutants associated with storm sewer discharges into Easton’s Beach, buy and distribute rain barrels to residents to capture rainwater for reuse and take actions to encourage low-impact development.
The EPA estimates that the city will spend about $25 million to address these issues. The city also will pay a $170,000 penalty to be split between federal and state government.
The settlement is the result of a federal and state enforcement action brought by the U.S. Department of Justice, on behalf of the EPA, the state of Rhode Island, the National Environmental Law Center on behalf of Environment Rhode Island and certain Rhode Island residents. The consent decree alleged that Newport violated the federal Clean Water Act, including illegal discharges of sewage and stormwater containing bacteria and other pollutants that pose threats to human health and the environment.
Under this consent decree, Newport is required to develop a comprehensive, system-wide plan to address discharge violations at its wastewater treatment plant and eliminate overflows from its wet-weather sewage treatment facilities at Wellington Avenue and Washington Street and from other points in its collection system. Planned actions include identifying and removing extraneous sources of water from its collection system by eliminating stormwater connections and repairing or replacing leaky pipes.
The city also will take measures to reduce the levels of bacteria in discharges from its storm sewer system to Easton’s Beach.
“EPA expects all municipalities to pay attention to critical elements of their wastewater infrastructure,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office. “Maintaining these municipal assets reduces the risk of service disruptions, the environmental and economic impacts associated with untreated sewage discharges and avoids the potentially higher costs to repair or replace them when they fail.”
While negotiating this agreement, the city has been taking corrective action and working cooperatively with all federal, state and environmental parties involved.
“Newport’s waters are treasured by all Rhode Islanders – they are vital to our ecology, economy and quality of life,” said John Rumpler, senior attorney for Environment Rhode Island. “The city’s decision to take responsibility for ending its pollution will be appreciated for generations to come.”
The consent decree, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court.