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U.S. Sues Scranton Sewer Authority for Clean Water Act Violations

Release Date: 09/30/2009
Contact Information: David Sternberg, 215-814-5548

(PHILADELPHIA – September 29, 2009) The U.S. Department of Justice on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has filed a complaint asking a federal court to order the Scranton Sewer Authority to stop discharges of untreated sewage into the Lackawanna River.

The complaint alleges numerous illegal discharges of untreated sewage, discharging more than a billion gallons of untreated sewage in 2008, threatening human health and water quality, and violating the federal Clean Water Act.

Untreated sewage contains viruses and protozoa as well as other parasites. People coming in contact with these organisms can suffer adverse health effects ranging from minor ailments such as sore throats, stomach cramps and diarrhea, to life-threatening illnesses such as cholera, dysentery, infectious hepatitis and severe gastroenteritis. Children, the elderly, people with weakened immune systems and pregnant women are more at risk of illness.

The complaint asks the court to issue an order to the Scranton Sewer Authority to eliminate or minimize the risk to human health and water quality posed by the discharges, and come into compliance with federal requirements and its state-issued pollution discharge permit.

The complaint also seeks financial penalties for the violations. Penalties are assessed based on the seriousness of the violations, the economic benefit from non-compliance, compliance history, the economic impact of the penalty, and other factors.

EPA, in partnership with Pennsylvania is taking clear steps to protect the water quality of local streams and rivers. This action, along with actions in other states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, will also help protect and restore the Bay. EPA has drafted a multi-year, multi-state, multi-media compliance and enforcement strategy that protects local water quality and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay.