The City of Waterloo has agreed to pay a total of $272,000 for violations of the Clean Water Act, pending a 30-day public comment period and approval by a federal court.
The city was accused of discharging untreated sewage into the Cedar River and its tributaries, which allowed repeated backups of sewage-laden wastewater into homes and other buildings. Waterloo was also accused of failing to properly operate and maintain its sewage treatment and collection systems.
Under terms of the settlement, Waterloo does not admit any wrongdoing.
Attorney John Hall specializes in Clean Water Act compliance and permitting. He served as Waterloo’s special counsel in the negotiation, and says the EPA got involved after flooding events in 2008 and 2010, which he calls "Acts of God".
"The consent decree in the end recognized that Waterloo is not required to control during overflows during floods," says Hall. "There were certain things that occurred in their system that they should have had more control over. Other things that were beyond their control. So they paid a penalty for the things that they should have had a little more control over."
Hall adds that Waterloo did agree there are certain conditions when overflow should not occur. In addition to the payment, Waterloo plans to assess its sanitary sewer system and develop a strategy to eliminate unlawful sewer overflows.