Consent decree, complaint filed against Kansas City for sewer overflows

May 18, 2010
WASHINGTON, DC, May 18, 2010 -- The U.S. Department of Justice is filing today with the Federal District Court a complaint against the City of Kansas City, Missouri (KCMO) and an accompanying consent decree relating to the City's sewer overflows...

WASHINGTON, DC, May 18, 2010 -- After several years of rigorous negotiations, the U.S. Department of Justice is filing today with the Federal District Court a complaint against the City of Kansas City, Missouri (KCMO) and an accompanying consent decree relating to the City's sewer overflows. The consent decree embodies the settlement that has been negotiated over these past several years. Filing the complaint is a necessary step in the consent decree adoption process.

The Complaint asserts a number of violations, some of which the City concurs and others that we contest. Nonetheless, all allegations contained in the lawsuit are fully resolved by the consent decree, without any admission of liability by the City for any violations.

Alleging these violations is standard practice for the Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the consent decree settlement process. It does not in any way affect the agreement that has been reached between the parties and, most importantly, the 25 years to implement the Overflow Control Plan.

KCMO has worked cooperatively and positively with the federal and state governments to address our sewer overflows. The Overflow Control Plan is the right plan for Kansas City. For five years, the Wet Weather Community Panel provided input that shaped the Overflow Control Plan. We want to express our appreciation to EPA and Department of Justice for granting us the time to incorporate our community's priorities. The Overflow Control Plan and consent decree includes an unprecedented green solutions program. In addition to the identified green solutions in the plan, Kansas City will be able to substitute green infrastructure in place of traditional gray solutions, wherever feasible. These collaborative and productive processes resulted in EPA and Department of Justice allowing a city, for the first time, 25 years to implement its sewer overflow control plan.

The $2.5 billion program contains carefully developed long-term infrastructure investments that will greatly reduce the volume and frequency of overflows and will serve our residents for several generations. In addition to an initial 100 acre green solutions pilot project in the Middle Blue River Basin near 75th and Troost, implementation of the Overflow Control Plan will also begin in our neighborhoods with sewer rehabilitation projects throughout the City. The Overflow Control Plan and Consent Decree progress will be posted on the City's Web Site.

Rich Noll, acting director of the Water Services Department, stated, "Although this is a very expensive plan, we have negotiated a reasonable time period to implement these costly solutions so as to moderate the impact on ratepayers. Twenty-five years also affords us the opportunity to include green solutions that are not only environmentally friendly, but we believe will also be economically friendly."

Councilwoman Jan Marcason serves as the city council liaison to the Overflow Control Project. She stated, "I want to thank the members of the Wet Weather Community Panel for their time and dedication to this effort. Their hard work resulted in a Sewer Overflow Control Plan that is appropriate to Kansas City. This Panel serves as the national model for citizen engagement and other cities are anxious to replicate its success. As chair of the Panel, Carol Grimaldi deserves our particular appreciation for successfully spearheading a monumental task. She did a terrific job keeping a diverse group of citizen volunteers engaged for five years on the normally dull topic of sewers."

The Kansas City, Mo., Water Services Department maintains and operates water collection, processing and distribution systems, stormwater management and control systems, and waste water collection and processing systems for residential and business customers in Kansas City and for wholesale customers in the Kansas City region. Operation is funded entirely by fees charged to customers based on their use of products and services, not by taxes.