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DECATUR, Ala. — The State of Alabama’s lawsuit against Decatur Utilities alleging violations of its wastewater discharge permit, including failure to provide toxicity reports and monitor for bacteria, is now before a judge for settlement.

The two sides reached an agreement last week that includes the utility agreeing to significant upgrades to its wastewater system and increased monitoring, and payment by the utility of $118,000 in fines and $5,000 in court costs.

The settlement also puts Decatur Utilities on the clock to make repairs or face fines, and end SSOs, sanitary system overflows:

“The Defendant shall complete infiltration and inflow rehabilitation, repairs, and upgrades to the sewer collection system and lift stations as necessary to minimize and mitigate SSOs no later than 1,825 days after entry of this Settlement Agreement.”

Decatur Utilities reported more than 6 million gallons of sanitary sewer overflows in 2019.

Decatur Utilities and the City of Decatur have already approved a $165 million sewer system upgrade plan. A spokesman for the utility said the costs associated with the upgrades will be paid for through increased customer fees.

DU Wastewater customers saw a $12 increase in their monthly access fee beginning in February, Decatur Utilities said. There will be a $6 per month increase in year two and $4 in year three, an overall $22 per month increase at that point. 

The lawsuit brought by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management and the Alabama Attorney General’s office was filed in June 2019 and joined by the environmental watchdog group Tennessee Riverkeeper, which had planned its own lawsuit.

Riverkeeper sent a notice of intent to sue to Decatur Utilities, the first step in bringing a federal action under the Clean Water Act. Riverkeeper alleged 244 CWA violations for collection system overflows from April 2014 to February 2019.

Tennessee Riverkeeper founder David Whiteside addressed the settlement terms last week.

“Under the provisions of the settlement agreement, DU must assess the capacities of its WWTP (wastewater treatment plant) and conduct system wide sanitary sewer evaluation studies. It must prepare an engineering report that addresses the need for changes in maintenance and operating procedures, the potential for infiltration and inflow, the need for modification of existing treatment and collection system works, and the need for new or additional treatment and collection system works as necessary to achieve compliance with applicable rules and regulations and Permit conditions.

“The Engineering Report shall include a Compliance Plan, a plan for continued maintenance and assessment of the collection system to minimize future inflow and infiltration, address the maximum wet-weather capacity of the Facility and the feasibility for treatment/storage units for use during storm events.”

The settlement also includes a $5,000 payment to Tennessee Riverkeeper for litigation costs.

ADEM and the Alabama Attorney General’s Office have declined comment pending the formal approval of the settlement by a Morgan County judge.

Read the full lawsuit below:

Read the Settlement below: