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United States and State of New York Lodge Consent Judgment with Suffolk County to Remedy Water Pretreatment Violations; County to Pay $1 Million

Release Date: 04/28/2006
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The United States and New York State have reached agreement with Suffolk County to settle a lawsuit alleging that Suffolk violated the pretreatment provisions of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act at its wastewater treatment plants. The pretreatment provisions are designed to minimize discharge of toxic pollutants from industrial sources into the sewage collection system, which in turn leads to other waterways in the environment. Suffolk County owns and operates wastewater treatment plants which receive and treat wastewater from residential, commercial, and industrial sources. The wastewater treatment plants discharge pollutants to groundwater, the Long Island Sound, and the Atlantic Ocean.

The agreement was announced by ROSLYNN R. MAUSKOPF, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, ALAN J. STEINBERG, Regional Administrator, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Region 2, ELIOT SPITZER, Attorney General for the State of New York, and DENISE M. SHEEHAN, New York State Commissioner of Environmental Conservation.

According to the complaint filed today, Suffolk failed to properly implement its Industrial Waste Pretreatment Program, as required under its State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) Permits through its failure to: (1) identify, locate, and properly categorize its industrial users, (2) enforce pretreatment standards and issue adequate discharge certifications, (3) ensure compliance monitoring of its significant industrial users, (4) enforce and obtain remedies for noncompliance with pretreatment standards, (5) comply with the modification requirements for changes to its pretreatment program, (6) maintain adequate resources needed to carry out its pretreatment program, (7) comply with EPA’s Administrative Order, and (8) comply with New York State law concerning the SPDES program and permitting.

Under the Consent Judgment, lodged today in U.S. District Court in Central Islip, New York, Suffolk County will fully implement and enforce the provisions of its Industrial Waste Pretreatment Program, as required in its SPDES Permits. The Consent Judgment requires Suffolk to, among other things, conduct unannounced inspections of all Significant Industrial Users and take unannounced samples of their wastewater discharge, take enforcement action to bring major facilities that discharge to the wastewater treatment system into compliance with applicable pretreatment standards and requirements, seek civil penalties for noncompliance, and maintain sufficient staffing and resources to carry out its pretreatment program. Pursuant to the Consent Judgment, Suffolk will pay a penalty of $300,000. Suffolk will also fund a Supplemental Environmental Project in the amount of $700,000 to purchase privately-owned land in the Core Preservation Area of the Central Long Island Pine Barrens as defined in NYECL 57-0107(11) for the purpose of protecting groundwater in Suffolk County’s sole source aquifer from discharges of pollutants that may accompany development.

The violations alleged in the complaint do not pose an immediate threat to public health. However, Suffolk’s compliance with the requirements of the Industrial Waste Pretreatment Program and the SPDES Permits is essential to prevent pass through and interference with the wastewater treatment plants by minimizing the discharge of toxic pollutants from industrial sources into the sewage collection system and ultimately into other waterways. Suffolk voluntarily agreed to implement many requirements of this Consent Judgment prior to its submission to the Court in order to comply with the law as quickly as possible and to demonstrate its good faith while other issues were being negotiated.

“Suffolk County’s residents are entitled to the full protection of the laws and regulations designed to limit pollutants in industrial sewage discharge,” stated United States Attorney MAUSKOPF. “This Consent Judgment will help to ensure that our waterways and most significantly, Suffolk’s groundwater, the sole source aquifer for Suffolk County, are protected from harmful industrial pollutants.” Ms. MAUSKOPF promised continued vigorous enforcement and oversight of the requirements of the Consent Judgment.

“In this case, the environmental enforcement powers delegated to the county were neglected through lax enforcement and poor monitoring,” stated EPA Regional Administrator STEINBERG. “Untreated industrial discharges can seriously hamper the wastewater treatment process. As a result of this agreement, Suffolk County will not only take corrective action, it will also undertake a $700,000 land acquisition program to preserve and protect a major source of Long Island’s drinking water.”

New York State Attorney General SPITZER stated, “I am pleased that Suffolk County has brought its industrial sewage program into compliance with environmental laws. These improvements will help ensure that groundwater and Long Island Sound will be protected. In addition, environmentally sensitive land in Long Island’s Pine Barrens will be preserved using funds from this important pollution settlement.”

New York State Commissioner of Environmental Conservation SHEEHAN stated, “This agreement will have numerous beneficial outcomes for current and future generations of New Yorkers. It will contribute towards Suffolk County’s ability to meet the State’s stringent requirements for discharges to Long Island’s waterways and requires significant financial penalties that will support the protection and preservation of a unique ecosystem -- the Pine Barrens.”

The proposed settlement will be published in the Federal Register for a 30-day public comment period and to become effective must be approved by the United States District Court of the Eastern District of New York.

The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Deborah B. Zwany, Gordon J. Johnson, New York State Attorney General’s Office, Diane Gomes, Assistant Regional Counsel, EPA Region II, and Scott Crisafulli, DEC Associate Counsel.