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EPA extends Springfield's sewer repair deadline

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The Springfield Board of Mayor and Aldermen. CHERI REEVES

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has granted a two-year extension to Springfield's five-year deadline to repair the city's sewers.

On Sept. 24, 2012, after experiencing chronic overflows in city sewers and violating the Clean Water Act, Springfield entered into an Administrative Order on Consent with the EPA that permitted the city to improve its 60 to 80-year-old sewer system within a five-year period.

The work is yet to be completed, so the city requested a three-year extension from the EPA to finish the project.

Springfield City Manager Gina Holt said on Wednesday, Sept. 6, the EPA Regional Office in Atlanta informed her that they will be recommending the approval of a 24-month extension to the Administrative Order on Consent.

"They added a caveat that they will consider another extension after the 24 months if we are making significant progress and are close to substantially complete," Holt said.

For the past five years, the evaluation, repair and renovation of the city's sewers have alleviated the overflows, according to Roger Lemasters, Springfield's water/wastewater director.

Two 500,000-gallon wastewater holding tanks, planned for the northern and southern ends of Springfield, still have to be constructed.

Lemasters said if the EPA had not agreed upon an extension, the federal agency could have terminated the existing order and issued a unilateral order for a three to five-year period.

"The other option would have been to allow this existing order to terminate itself," Lemasters said. "Then get with the Dept. of Justice and issue a consent decree through a federal court. That is the least desirable option because if we failed to do anything, we would be in contempt of court instead of being in trouble with just the EPA."

Lemasters said that now, once the construction gets underway and is nearly done, perhaps the 24-month extension could be approved, if needed.

"We have three more contracts to do," Lemasters said. "The holding tanks will have a construction time of about 19 or 20 months. We are in the process of acquiring easements for properties and will get started on the tanks once we have all the properties acquired."

To date, the city of Springfield has spent a little more than $29 million on everything from construction, design, easement acquisitions and inspections on the sewer renovation.

The city has used bonds to fund a majority of the project, as well as the State Revolving Fund loan program, according to Holt.

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