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Published: Friday, 7/7/2006

Fostoria sued over sewage violations

FOSTORIA - U.S. and Ohio regulators filed two federal civil suits yesterday against the city of Fostoria over violations at its wastewater treatment plant, but officials said the legal actions are part of a consent decree the city agreed to earlier this year.

The state EPA names Fostoria as defendant, while the U.S. EPA names the city and the state of Ohio as defendants.

The lawsuits, filed in U.S. District Court in Toledo, said Fostoria's treatment plant and sewage system have illegally discharged untreated water into the east branch of the Portage River and into the Caples-Flack Ditch since September, 1997.

Bill Rains, Fostoria's safety-service director, said the two lawsuits represent part of the legal actions related to a consent decree that "we have been working on for just about a year."

In May, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency levied a $30,000 fine against the city of Fostoria as part of a consent agreement to replace its outdated sewer system. The city had been negotiating the sewer issue with the EPA, the Justice Department, and the Ohio Attorney General's office.

The city said at the time that it had hired an engi-neering firm to create a long-term plan to separate storm-water and waste-water sewers. Mr. Rains said yesterday the city hopes to have that plan developed by next year.

The federal government gave the city 20 years to complete the updates, although Mr. Rains said the goal is to complete the project before then.

Fostoria's combined sewers make up about 80 percent of the city's system. But because of overflows caused by heavy rains, raw sewage is discharged into local waterways. Some of Fostoria's sewers date to the 1890s.

The treatment plant on Perrysburg Road was built in the 1950s.

"This is the legal part of the process," Mr. Rains said of the two lawsuits.

The city met recently with regional EPA executives from Chicago, and nothing was mentioned regarding potential new actions, he said.

Representatives from the EPA and the state attorney general's office could not be reached for comment.

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