Fort Smith to Pay Fines, Start Sewer Upgrades to Reduce Raw Sewage in Public Waterways

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FORT SMITH — On Friday, the The Department of Justice, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the state of Arkansas announced Fort Smith will spend more than $200 million to upgrade its sewer and water treatment systems.

The upgrades will come over the next 12 years to reduce the discharge of raw sewage and pollutants into local waterways. It’s part of a federal court settlement of reported Clean Water Act violations related to Fort Smith’s failure to properly operate and maintain its sewer collection and treatment system. The city was also ordered to pay a $300,000 civil penalty and spend $400,000 on a program to help qualified low-income residential property owners to repair or replace defective private sewer lines that connect to the city collection system.

According to the Department of Justice, since 2004, Fort Smith has reported more than 2,000 releases of untreated sewage from its municipal sewage system, resulting in more than 119 million gallons of raw sewage flowing into local waterways, including the Arkansas River. “These types of releases, known as sanitary sewer overflows, cause serious water quality and public health problems,” according to the department.

To reduce sanitary sewer overflows, Fort Smith will conduct tests of its sewer system and will repair all sewer pipe segments and manholes that are likely to fail within the next 10 years.

The proposed settlement is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval. The consent decree is available for review at www.justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.

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