The City of Lancaster on December 20, 2017 entered into a consent decree with the United States and Pennsylvania under which it agreed to implement measures to end discharges of untreated sewage and other pollutants to the Conestoga River. Lancaster also agreed to pay a $135,000 civil penalty and to spend $1.8 million to restore a 1,350-foot segment of Groff’s Run. This project will reconnect wetlands to the Conestoga River to protect water quality and to reduce localized flooding.
The settlement, filed in federal court, resolves a complaint brought by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. The complaint alleged that the discharge of raw sewage violated the federal Clean Water Act and Pennsylvania’s Clean Streams Law. Lancaster operates a combined sewer system, which handled sewage, industrial waste, and stormwater. During heavy rainfall or snow melt, the water volume would overwhelm the City’s sewage treatment plant, resulting in the release of untreated sewage and other pollutants to the Conestoga River. Lancaster experienced at least 392 overflows in the past five years, resulting in the discharge of approximately 3.8 billion gallons of untreated water. The proposed consent decree is now the subject of a 30-day public comment period.
Municipalities face a multitude of federal and state mandates related to their management of stormwater and the operation of sewage treatment plants. Stock and Leader’s environmental and municipal attorneys are available to assist municipalities in meeting the complex requirements.