Amended consent decree to save South Bend an estimated $400 million

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – The City of South Bend’s 2012 Clean Water Act consent decree will undergo revisions to further reduce the number of bacteria in the St. Joseph River.

The U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management have agreed to amend the 2012 decree, which will reduce and treat sewage and wastewater discharges to meet Indiana’s water quality standard for E. coli.

The amended consent decree will improve public health, better protect the river and lower the cost of compliance by over $400 million.

“This amendment provides South Bend time to revise its long-term plan to further reduce and treat sewage and wastewater discharges to meet Indiana’s water quality standard,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

The revised plan includes the following:

  • Expansion of South Bend’s current sewage treatment plant
  • Construction of three retention treatment facilities
  • Replacement or modification of various sewers

The city estimates that this revised plan will cost $276 million in 2019 dollars, compared to the $700 million or more South Bend estimates it would cost to continue implementing the 2012 consent decree.

Before 2012, the city discharged more than two billion gallons of untreated human and industrial sewage and stormwater per year, containing concentrated levels of E. coli that ultimately flowed into the St. Joseph River.

The 2012 consent decree required the city to reduce that number to 46.9 million gallons per year and reduce E. coli to 15,000 counts per 100 milliliters. However, that count still exceeds Indiana's water quality standard of 235 counts per 100 milliliters.

Under this revised plan, which will be fully implemented by 2038, South Bend will treat nearly all of its annual discharge volumes to concentrations below the state’s E. coli water quality standard of 235 counts per 100 milliliters.

The government says one of the reasons South Bend is able to implement this plan is due to the installation of more than 150 "smart" sensors at locations in its sewer system that enabled the city to better monitor and manage flow.

The proposed amended decree must now undergo a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.

If you would like to view the amended decree, click here.

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