The Central Valley Water Reclamation Facility has agreed to pay $450,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by the Environmental Protection Agency concerning charges of Clean Water Act violations.
The settlement came more than two years after the EPA filed suit against Central Valley following Clean Water Act violations were recorded at Cottonwood, Granger-Hunter, Suburban District No. 1, Murray and South Salt Lake wastewater treatment plants.Each of the aging plants has since been taken out of service and replaced by a new regional wastewater treatment plant on the Vitro Chemical site at 650 W. 33rd South.
Central Valley attorney Fred W. Finlinson said the fine is extremely heavy in comparison with fines levied by the EPA in the past. But he said the nearly half-million dollar settlement is probably light compared with other similar cases still being litigated.
For example, a 4-year-old suit brought by the EPA against Denver's metropolitan wastewater district will likely settle for more than $1 million, Finlinson said. In Los Angeles, fines totaled $650,000, and the city had to pay for a $4.5 million study.
In addition to the fine against Central Valley, the settlement with EPA included the implementation of a pretreatment program that assures the proper management and treatment, according to federal standards, of industrial wastes prior to their discharge into the sewer.
Central Valley officials have been working on the development of the pretreatment program throughout settlement negotiations.
Finlinson said being sued by the EPA put district officials in a Catch-22 situation. Directors of the Cottonwood plant, for example, applied for federal grants to improve the facility. But the grants were denied because the national posture was to build regional plants and dismantle smaller aging municipal plants. Cottonwood joined the other municipal entities in Central Valley to build the $130 million regional treatment plant - then got hit with fines for violations at the old plants while the new one was under construction.
In retrospect, the district would have applied for temporary compliance exemption permits on the old plants while the new plant was under construction, Finlinson said.
"We never applied because we felt we were operating as best we could and getting the new plant built as soon as we could," Finlinson said. "We did get the new plant up and operational before we were required to in our (federal) permit. We were doing our part, but we did in fact have paper violations."
Finlinson said Central Valley's member entities will share the burden of the fine and litigation costs according to their percentage of ownership in the new plant.
"We are glad to have the legal side of the issue over with," said EPA Region Eight Administrator Jim Scherer in an agency statement. Scherer said the agency sought the penalty as a deterrent.
"This settlement is the end result of a solid 15 years of planning and implementation of an effective way to improve the Jordan River's water quality," said Max H. Dodson, region water management division director for the EPA.