Beveridge & Diamond
 

Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans Lodges Modified Consent Decree Following Hurricane Katrina Damage to Sewage System

Beveridge & Diamond, P.C., February 1, 2010

On January 27, 2010, the Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans ("Board") entered into a Modified Consent Decree with the Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA"), the U.S. Department of Justice ("DOJ"), and other parties. The Modified Decree replaces a 1998 Consent Decree, implementation of which was interrupted in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina and its devastating effects on the City of New Orleans. Under the Modified Decree, the Board will reinstate its comprehensive remedial program to update its sewage collection and treatment system to reduce or eliminate overflows from the system.

The Modified Decree reflects years of extensive negotiations between the Board and EPA, DOJ, the state of Louisiana, and several public interest groups that intervened in the matter. The Modified Decree extends the time for remedial action of the Board’s sewage collection and treatment system by five years, until July 31, 2015. It requires the Board to carry out additional actions to minimize damage in the event of another catastrophic storm, including construction of a protective wall around its East Bank Sewage Treatment Plant to prevent flooding, construction of an improved electrical system to provide backup power supply during long-term outages, and the study of other remedial measures. In addition, the Board will monitor capacity needs of the East Bank Plant in light of population growth and report on such monitoring to the parties to the Modified Decree.

"For many years, until Hurricane Katrina, the Sewerage & Water Board was making great strides in repairing its outdated collection system in compliance with the 1998 agreement," said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for DOJ’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. "We are pleased that, despite the devastating effects of the hurricane, the Board has agreed to continue its aggressive remediation program in order to protect the public health and make the waterways safe for the people of New Orleans."

"We have agreed on an aggressive plan which will greatly help New Orleans’ system deliver better service to residents while it protects the environment," said EPA Regional Administrator Al Armendariz. "Protecting America’s waters is a priority at EPA. We are pleased the Sewage & Water Board shares our strong commitment to clean water."

Marcia St. Martin, Executive Director of the Board, said "This Decree commits the Board to an extensive, expensive and complex program, but we believe that over the long term it will provide an important road map to protect the waters of our community for the benefit of our citizens."

Beveridge & Diamond, P.C. has represented the Board in this matter since 1993, when EPA and DOJ initiated an enforcement action under the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act to address operation and maintenance of the Board’s sewage collection and treatment system.

A copy of the consent decree is available on the Justice Department website at http://wwww.usdoj.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.

For more information, please contact Henry Diamond at (202) 789-6010, hdiamond@bdlaw.com, Ben Wilson at (202) 789-6023, bwilson@bdlaw.com, or Parker Moore at (202) 789-6028, pmoore@bdlaw.com.