August 20, 2021
The City of South Bend has reached an agreement with the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) for an amended Clean Water Act consent decree.
“This new agreement will result in significant savings for the ratepayers of South Bend. I am grateful to our state and federal partners for helping to make this new agreement a reality,” said Mayor James Mueller. “I also want to thank and congratulate our City team for their work in developing this plan and ensuring we exceed the high standards necessary to keep the St. Joseph River safe and clean.”
The City’s original Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) long-term plan, approved by the DOJ and EPA in 2012, required $713 million in capital improvements to the sewer system by the end of 2031. The City has been renegotiating this federally mandated plan since 2018 to reduce the burden on ratepayers to fund the improvements.
The City’s revised plan, SAGE – Smarter Alternative for a Greener Environment – uses data and analytics from the Smart Sewers sensor network to exceed the requirement of the federal CSO policy and provide cost savings. The SAGE Plan will cost $276 million to implement and reduces the City’s original financial commitment by $437 million. The new consent decree also provides more time for the City to implement capital improvements, now required by the end of 2038.
In addition, the SAGE Plan is better for the environment:
- The City will now capture and treat 99.6% of combined sewage generated during wet weather events, up from 89%.
- SAGE will achieve the E. Coli reduction benefit of the 2012 plan and an additional 12% more, virtually eliminating the City’s sewer as source of this bacteria for the river.
- The original plan required nine large underground storage facilities built across the city, including in Leeper and Howard Parks. The SAGE Plan requires just three tanks, making it less disruptive to the community.
Initial funding of the SAGE plan will come from the recently adopted comprehensive rate ordinance which contemplates approximately $85 Million for CSO related capital improvements over the next five years.
The SAGE plan was developed with support and collaboration from several community groups and organizations, including: Friends of the St. Joseph River; St. Joseph River Basin Commission; Shirley Heinze Land Trust; Bowman Creek Educational Ecosystem; Ivy Tech Community College; University of Notre Dame; Indiana University South Bend; Southeast Organized Area Residents, La Casa de Amistad, Nature Conservancy and the Citizens Advisory Committee.
Click here to read the full amended consent decree.