August 18, 2015 Chester, PA – The Delaware County Regional Water Quality Control Authority (DELCORA) announced today that it has entered into a settlement agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to make improvements to the combined sewer and stormwater drainage system in the City of Chester to address issues related to the overflow of the system during high rain events.
Under the consent decree, negotiated in good faith by and between DELCORA and the EPA,
DELCORA has 42 months to develop a long-term plan to control and reduce overflows from the City of Chester’s combined sewer and stormwater system, and 20 years to implement the plan.Contrary to public reports stating the project could cost up to $200 million, DELCORA said it has not determined the cost of the long-term control plan and would be unable to do so for up to another three years when development of the plan is completed.
DELCORA inherited Chester’s antiquated system in 1971 when it took over the operations of wastewater treatment from the City. The system was constructed in the early 1900s and the combined sewer system – which includes one pipe that combines both sewer and stormwater runoff – was a typical engineering practice at the time in urban areas.
When DELCORA assumed control of the system in the 1970s, discharges from the system were in compliance with the agency’s permits, but as new technologies have developed in recent years, the EPA has become more stringent in its interpretation of the Clean Water Act as it relates to combined sewer systems. Over the past several years, the EPA has entered into consent decrees and issued civil penalties for wastewater systems in many urban communities in Pennsylvania and across the country, including Philadelphia, Williamsport, Scranton, Harrisburg, and Pittsburgh.
Currently, the City of Philadelphia is in the process of implementing a $2 billion long-term control plan following its consent decree with the EPA. DELCORA is funding $178 million over 15 years for the improvements because part of its wastewater system flows into the City’s system.
“We take our commitment to the environment and our customers very seriously,” said Robert Willert, Executive Director of DELCORA. “During a 10-year period, from 1999 to 2009 DELCORA developed a long-term control plan and invested $5 million in infrastructure improvements to address the issues of overflows during rain events that impacted the combined wastewater system in Chester.”
Willert said that the $5 million infrastructure investment included upgrades to regulators, which control the flow and discharge of wastewater during rain events. DELCORA also paid the City of Chester $750,000 to put in place new storm water inlets on city streets that help stop trash and debris from flowing into the combined system, which could lead to backups and the unnecessary discharge of wastewater from the system.
Willert noted that industrial wastewater is kept separate from the combined system and that DELCORA has worked to mitigate the problem by requiring that new projects – such as PPL Park and the reconstruction of Route 291 – divert water to a separate stormwater system that is distinct from the combined system that exists throughout most of Chester.
DELCORA has brought on a team of experts to help develop the long-term control plan, including an engineering firm that specializes in the issue of combined wastewater systems and a municipal and financial service firm to help develop a rate model for customers to fund the needed improvements. Under the consent decree with the EPA, DELCORA will also pay a $1.375 million penalty to the state and federal government.
The Delaware County Regional Water Quality Control Authority (DELCORA) is a municipal
authority that owns, operates, and maintains wastewater facilities that serve approximately
500,000 people in the greater Philadelphia area, including 42 municipalities in Delaware and