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Published: Saturday, 10/2/2004

EPA sues Clyde for pollutant violations

BY STEVE MURPHY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has sued Clyde, Ohio, in federal court, alleging that the Sandusky County city has violated the Clean Water Act by discharging excess pollutants from its wastewater treatment plant into a local creek.

The suit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Toledo, asks for more than $100 million in fines - with a minimum of $25,000 a day per violation - for the pollution claims and other alleged violations of the city's state-issued discharge permits and federal law.

A separate complaint, filed by the Ohio attorney general's office, makes the same allegations and also claims the city violated state water protection laws.

A "table of violations" attached to the 13-page complaint says the city violated its discharge permit 1,251 times between May, 1997, and October, 2002. Those violations included excessive levels of residual chlorine, nitrogen ammonia, fecal coliform, mercury, phosphorus, silver, copper, and total suspended solids.

The table also cites 23 days in which pH levels either exceeded or fell short of the acceptable range, and 69 days when dissolved oxygen levels fell below the minimum called for in the discharge permits.

"On numerous occasions from 1997 through the present, Clyde has discharged and continues to discharge effluent from the [wastewater treatment plant] into Raccoon Creek in excess of the effluent levels contained in Clyde's 1994, 1997, and 2002 permits," the suit says.

Such discharges "harm the water quality and aquatic life of Raccoon Creek and expose the public to potential health risks," the complaint says.

The suit also alleges that Clyde:

●Violated its 1994 discharge permit by failing to make required upgrades to its wastewater collection system by Aug. 1, 1995, and by allowing overflows of "excessive untreated wastewater" between April, 1996, and August, 1998.

●Violated federal law by distributing sewage sludge without certifying that it met pathogen limits on 578 occasions between 1994, and 1996.

●Failed to follow a March, 1995, administrative order from the U.S. EPA requiring compliance with the city's 1994 discharge permit by June 30, 1995.

●Did not adequately monitor pollution levels at three discharge sites on 10 occasions between 1997 and May, 2002.

Blain Rethmeier, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, yesterday declined comment on the suit.

Neither Clyde Mayor Dan Giebel nor City Manager Dan Weaver could be reached for comment. City Solicitor Barry Bova would not comment.

Fred Craig, supervisor of the city's wastewater treatment plant, said Clyde has tried to improve its sewer system over the past decade and satisfy state and federal regulators.

For several years, Clyde has been separating storm and sanitary sewers when it rebuilds city streets, Mr. Craig said. In 1999, the city stopped accepting septic waste from homes outside Clyde's sewer service area.

The city has done maintenance and improvement projects at its 18-year-old wastewater treatment plant, which can handle up to 6 million gallons a day, Mr. Craig said.

Contact Steve Murphy:

at smurphy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6078.



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