Combined Sewer Overflows in Context

Combined Sewer Overflows in Context

One hundred and five (105) Indiana communities with combined sewer systems have been working feverishly to develop Long-Term Control Plans (LTCPs) to establish firm plans for reducing combined sewer overflows (CSOs) over the next 10 to 20 years. An estimated $4 billion in public funding and 20 billion gallons in annual sewage overflows are at stake.

The problem of CSOs cannot be managed in isolation. Many of these sewers overflow with just a light rain. New growth often depends on sanitary sewers that eventually drain to combined sewers. And the existing treatment plants are expected to handle the increased flow.

With stakes this high, Indiana’s environmental groups have once again teamed up to reduce sewage entering our streams from publicly owned treatment works. Thanks to a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Environmental Justice, the Environmental Careers Organization has assigned an intern – Katy Kintzele – to help evaluate the LTCPs and provide the necessary context. Ms. Kintzele, with the help of Tom Neltner of Improving Kids’ Environment, will:

1. Use the CSO Scoring System developed by eight Indiana environmental groups to evaluate the quality and effectiveness of the draft and final Long-Term Control Plans submitted to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM). At this time, less than 50 communities have submitted plans.

2. Determine whether IDEM and the cities meet their obligation under the Civil Rights Act to ensure that their decisions do not disproportionately negatively impact minorities (regardless of the neutral intent and/or appearance of the decisions);

3. Determine whether IDEM and the cities are complying with antidegradation requirements when approving new sewer connections that increase sewage overflows during wet weather; and

4. Assess the potential impact of a “no-net increase in sewage overflows” policy on new sewer connections, and compare the impact to IDEM’s current and proposed policies, the latter of which would allow as many as 17 dry weather overflows without strictly limiting sewer connections.

This effort will be a significant contribution to achieving sewage-free waters in Indiana. For more information on Indiana CSOs in general, or the CSO Scoring System,



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Images courtesy of Steven Huyser-Honig,
West Grand Boulevard Collaborative, & Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.