EPA prepared to fine Jackson for consent decree violations

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Federal environmental regulators say they are “prepared to take the necessary measures to enforce” requirements of a consent decree with Mississippi’s capital city.

This comes despite an Oct. 6 letter from Mayor Tony Yarber to U.S. EPA  southeast regional Administrator Heather McTeer Toney saying that the Jackson City Council is “interfering with and jeopardizing the City’s ability to continue in compliance with the Consent Decree.”

In November 2012, Jackson entered into the consent decree, which is a legal settlement, with the EPA and Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality for violating the federal Clean Water Act. According to the EPA, the alleged violations included 2,300 unlawful sewer  discharges into the Pearl River, totaling 2.8 billion gallons of minimally treated sewage into the Pearl River.

The consent decree requires Jackson to make significant upgrades to its sewer system as well as pay a $437,916 civil penalty and other fines if certain timetables are not met. Recent months have seen Yarber and members of the city council at loggerheads over the appointment of a program manager to oversee the consent decree work.

James D. Giattina, director of the EPA’s Water Protection Division, responded to Yarber’s letter on Nov. 2, requesting more detailed information from the city on the status of its compliance, including previously approved programs related to the consent decree.

The letter also states that regardless of who is at fault, missing key deadlines could leave the city with fines totaling up to $7,000 per day (up to $2,000 a day for failing to submit key reports and up to $5,000 per day for failing to make required repairs) for not holding up its end of the consent decree.

“The City’s failure to comply with the Consent Decree will thus continue the serious threat to human health and the environment,” Giattina said.

Contributing: Kendra Ablaza