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Lakewood ordered to pay $85 million by Justice Department to stop raw sewage discharge into Rocky River, Lake Erie

The city is alleged to have discharged raw sewage into the Rocky River and Lake Erie at least 1,933 times since early 2016.

CLEVELAND — The Department of Justice's Environment and Natural Resources Division has announced that the city of Lakewood has agreed to spend $85 million to "significantly reduce discharges of untreated sewage from its sewer system into Lake Erie and the Rocky River."

The interim partial consent decree was filed on Tuesday in federal court in Cleveland. It also calls for Lakewood to pay a civil penalty of $100,000, to be split evenly with the federal government and the state of Ohio. 

In a complaint filed by both the United States and Ohio, Lakewood is alleged to have discharged "untreated sanitary sewage" into the Rocky River or directly into Lake Erie on nearly 2,000 occasions from January 2016 through the present. 

In the decree, Lakewood is required to complete construction of a high-rate treatment system that will treat combined sewer overflows. They will also build two large storage basins that will hold million of gallons of wastewater until it can be sent to a wastewater treatment plant.

Other requirements of the consent decree include: 

  • Lakewood will conduct multiple pipe lining and repair projects within its sewer system designed to eliminate causes of sanitary sewer overflows. 
  • The city will also undertake a sampling pilot study designed to identify sewage in stormwater outfalls. 
  • A one-year post-construction monitoring program, which will provide the data needed for future work in Lakewood’s sewer system.

“The Clean Water Act requires adequate infrastructure to limit discharges of untreated sewage,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division in a statement. “This settlement requires meaningful investments in Lakewood’s wastewater collection and treatment system that will protect the waters surrounding the city of Lakewood.”

The Justice Department says the implementation of the decree will prevent millions of gallons of raw sewage carrying harmful pollutants, such as E. coli, from being discharged to Lake Erie and the Rocky River. These reductions in pollutants will improve water quality in Lake Erie and the Rocky River. 

The proposed agreement is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final approval by a U.S. District Court judge. The Justice Department says the decree will require the city of Lakewood to implement a plan that addresses the remaining permitted and unpermitted overflows in Lakewood’s sewer system and to demonstrate compliance with the Clean Water Act.

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