City of Mount Vernon Settles Clean Water Act Lawsuit
Recent news has been making the rounds regarding the City of Mount Vernon. On September 19, it was announced that the City of Mount Vernon had agreed to a settlement in a lawsuit filed against the city for alleged violations the city made against the Clean Water Act.
Mount Vernon Clean Water Lawsuit Details
First and foremost, we must gain a general understanding of the Clean Water Act. Luckily this one is fairly easier to understand just by reading the name. The Clean Water Acts purpose is to "prohibit discharges of pollutants into navigable waters...". For municipalities like Mount Vernon to continue discharges, they would need to comply with permits that eliminated water pollutants before being discharged.
According to the press release from the United States District Attorney's Office for Southern New York, the United States sued the City of Mount Vernon in 2018 on the grounds that since...
January 2012, MOUNT VERNON had failed to comply with these permit obligations and, as a result, had allowed raw sewage to flow into its storm sewer system and then to be discharged into the Hutchinson and Bronx Rivers.
It was also alleged that Mount Vernon failed to comply with not one, but two different measures from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) specifically to "compel MOUNT VERNON’s adherence to these requirements".
Consent Decree Ends Mount Vernon Litigation
The news which was recently announced that puts this entire litigation process to bed, is that the United States and the State of New York have entered a "Consent Decree" with the City of Mount Vernon. Essentially what this means is that the City of Mount Vernon has agreed to get in compliance with the Clean Water Act.
Part of that agreement means that Mount Vernon will be making numerous improvements to their sewage systems and the consent decree will provide the city with the means to have that work done. One of the main improvements made will be that...
MOUNT VERNON must construct two pump stations designed to eliminate identified sources of potential infiltration to the MS4.
MOUNT VERNON must either eliminate all other sources of illicit discharges within 30 days of identifying them or submit a binding plan for EPA’s and New York State’s approval for addressing specific sources that require a longer period to eliminate.
There are many other improvements that will also be made according to the press release.
Penalties Against City of Mount Vernon
As one may imagine, just because an agreement was reached to end the lawsuit and litigation process it does not mean that Mount Vernon avoids punishment, or in this case penalties.
One of the penalties for Mount Vernon is that Mount Vernon is on the hook for $200,000. Half of that will be paid to the United States and the other half to the State of New York. However, the payment to the state will be kept on hold unless Mount Vernon fails to comply with the Consent Decree.
One other major part of this Consent Decree is acknowledgement. In this case it means that Mount Vernon had to acknowledge and admit to and accept responsibility for a laundry list of issues tied to the lawsuit. One item from that list would be that...
Since at least 2013, MOUNT VERNON has not been in compliance with the permit applicable to its MS4 because it has not fully implemented and enforced an Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination Program. Among other things:
The rest of the list of acknowledgments can be viewed in the official press release.