City to spend $751 million to upgrade sewer system as part of settlement

Published: Sep. 10, 2013 at 3:56 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 20, 2013 at 3:57 PM EDT
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Interior of Columbia sewer pipe
Interior of Columbia sewer pipe

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The City of Columbia has agreed to make $750 million in improvements to its sanitary sewer system as part of a settlement of a lawsuit regarding raw sewage overflows.

The settlement was announced Tuesday by the U.S. Justice Department, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.  The suit claimed the City of Columbia violated the Clean Water Act by allowing overflows of raw sewage into area waterways.

The agreement provides another $1 million to restore streams, reduce flooding and improve water quality in parts of Rocky Branch, Smith Branch and Gills Creek.

"In this settlement, the city of Columbia has taken responsibility for its aging sewer treatment system," said U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina Bill Nettles.

"This settlement will bring badly needed improvements to Columbia's aging sewer infrastructure, reduce the dangers of sewage contamination and improve the quality of waterways in historically disadvantaged communities," said Robert G. Dreher, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division.

According to legal documents, the city will implement a plan to deal with raw sewage overflows and make improvements to the sewer system that will prevent them from occurring.

The city says money for the improvements will come from the water and sewer fund. They are part of the city's Clean Water 2020 program to update the cit's sewer water collection system and treatment facilities. 

The civil penalty will be paid with funds that have been budgeted for the 2013/2014 fiscal year in anticipation of the settlement.

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