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U.S. addresses sewage discharge violations in Unalaska

Release Date: 06/23/2011
Contact Information: Wyn Hornbuckle, U.S. Dept. of Justice, 202-616-0903,; Marianne Holsman, EPA Public Affairs, 206-553-1237,

(SEATTLE - June 23, 2011) – The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed a Clean Water Act complaint on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) against the City of Unalaska, Alaska, and the State of Alaska for long-standing and repeated Clean Water Act violations.

According to the complaint, from October 2004 to October 2010, the city’s wastewater treatment plant reported more than 4,800 violations of pollution limits in its Clean Water Act discharge permit. These violations resulted in discharges into South Unalaska Bay of partially-treated sewage containing several pollutants including fecal coliform bacteria at levels well above legal limits.

Unalaska Bay is protected for a number of uses, such as boating and recreational and commercial fishing, including for human consumption. In addition, Unalaska Bay is listed as an impaired water-body, which means the bay is too polluted or otherwise degraded to meet state water quality standards, and is home to several endangered or threatened species including sea otters, yellow-billed loons and Steller’s eiders, a species of sea duck.

The city’s wastewater treatment facility uses a primary treatment system that works to remove some solids from wastewater. Based on the City’s own monitoring reports, fecal coliform bacteria violations alone regularly exceeded permit limits by a substantial amount – often by more than 10 times the legal limit.

In the complaint, the United States asks the court to order the city to undertake all measures necessary to comply with the Clean Water Act and its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit, including any necessary structural and operational changes to its facility. The complaint also seeks a civil penalty.

With a year round population of more than 4,000, the City of Unalaska (commonly referred to as Dutch Harbor), is the 11th largest city in Alaska and is located on one of the nation’s most productive fishing grounds, supporting large-scale commercial fishing and fish processing. During the fishing season, the city’s population more than doubles, reaching as high as 10,000.

As required by the Clean Water Act, the state must be a party to this action.

More information about the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System program: