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Welch, W.Va. Settles Clean Water Act Violations

Release Date: 03/01/2012
Contact Information: EPA: David Sternberg, 215-814-5548 WVDEP: Kathy Cosco 304-926-0499 ext. 1331

(PHILADELPHIA – March 1, 2012) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and West Virginia announced today that they have settled violations of the Clean Water Act involving sewage overflows in Welch, W.Va.

Under the settlement filed by the U.S. Justice Department in federal district court, the City of Welch has agreed to implement a long term control plan to eliminate combined sewer overflows (CSOs) at an estimated cost of $16 to $23 million. As part of this plan, Welch will completely separate its sanitary wastewater and storm sewers.

In addition, Welch will develop and implement a plan for upgrading its treatment plant and monitoring system. Once implemented, the steps that Welch is required to take under this agreement will eliminate CSOs resulting in the discharge of approximately 400,000 gallons of raw sewage annually. Welch will also pay a $5,000 penalty for past violations, split between the U.S. and West Virginia.

The settlement announced today is the third addressing West Virginia municipalities’ wastewater violations in recent months. EPA and West Virginia also settled a CSO case with Elkins, W.Va. in October 2011 and a sanitary sewer overflow case with Fort Gay, W.Va. in January 2012.

Untreated sewage contains many types of organisms which can cause illness. 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 CSO complaints, filed with the settlements, alleged numerous overflows from the municipalities’ combined sewer systems. These sewer systems are designed to collect and convey rainwater runoff, domestic sewage, and industrial wastewater in the same pipe to a sewage treatment plant, where it is treated before discharge to a water body.

However, especially during periods of heavy rainfall or snowmelt, the water volume may exceed the capacity of the sewer system or treatment plant -- causing discharges of untreated wastewater directly to nearby waterways. These CSOs contain not only stormwater but also untreated human and industrial waste, toxic materials, and debris.

For more information on CSOs: