The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the State of Utah have reached an agreement with Salt Lake County to resolve alleged Clean Water Act violations associated with the county’s stormwater management program.
This agreement, lodged today as a consent decree in the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah, requires the county to take specific measures to reduce illegal stormwater and non-stormwater discharges to Jordan River Valley surface waters by thoroughly implementing the requirements of its municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) permit. The county will also pay a civil penalty of $280,000.
“Preventing and managing polluted runoff in urban areas is essential to protecting water quality,” said Assistant Regional Administrator Suzanne Bohan for EPA’s Enforcement Program. “The rivers and streams in the Jordan River watershed support growing populations and provide significant economic and recreational benefits in Salt Lake County’s communities. EPA will continue to take steps to ensure that municipalities have viable stormwater programs in place to reduce polluted runoff and protect water resources.”
“This agreement is good news for water quality in Salt Lake County and the people and wildlife that depend on it,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The settlement today is the result of a joint enforcement action by the State of Utah and the United States that will protect the area’s precious water resources from contaminated runoff for many years to come.”
“Protecting the water quality in Salt Lake County is a priority for all of us,” said U.S. Attorney John W. Huber for the District of Utah. “Salt Lake County, working together with the State of Utah, the EPA, and the Department of Justice, has agreed to take several measures that will help protect the Jordan River watershed going forward.”
Under the terms of the agreement, Salt Lake County will secure adequate resources to fully maintain and implement its stormwater program, including training and maintaining full-time staff. The county will also take measures to remedy several identified deficiencies, including procedures to review construction site stormwater control plans, inspect sites with active construction or industrial activity and enforce sediment and erosion control requirements. In addition, the county will ensure structural controls are properly installed and maintained and will improve efforts to identify and eliminate illegal discharges to stormwater infrastructure.
The volume of annual runoff in the Jordan River Valley is estimated at 190 million cubic meters per year, a figure that underscores the importance of local efforts to manage stormwater so it does not become contaminated before reaching surface waters. The Jordan River watershed supports fish, migratory bird species and wildlife and provides water for recreation, irrigation and public supply.
Stormwater runoff from rain and snowmelt events can pick up pollutants like trash, chemicals, oils and sediment as it flows over land and impervious surfaces, such as industrial storage areas, paved streets and parking lots. These pollutants can damage the health of a watershed and cause changes in the water quality, resulting in impaired drinking water sources, habitat modification and loss, increased flooding, decreased aquatic biological diversity and increased sedimentation and erosion. Stormwater controls—also known as best management practices– filter out pollutants and prevent pollution by controlling it at its source.
The Clean Water Act uses a permitting process to manage stormwater discharges from three types of sources: municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s), construction activities, and industrial activities. These permits are designed to prevent runoff from rain and snowmelt events from washing harmful pollutants into local surface waters. MS4s are systems of conveyances for storm water that include infrastructure such as storm drains, pipes, ditches and roads. MS4 permits are designed to reduce the release of contaminated runoff into MS4s and the waters into which they discharge. EPA and the Utah Department of Environmental Quality inspected the County’s MS4 in 2012 and identified numerous violations of the County’s MS4 permit.
The consent decree agreement requires the county to pay a one-time civil penalty of $280,000, including $140,000 to the United States and $140,000 to the State of Utah, with an opportunity to offset a portion of the state amount through the completion of supplemental environmental projects.