St. Louis Sewer District Agrees to Pay $4.7 Billion to Reduce Overflows

The Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District will pay as much as $4.7 billion over 23 years to overhaul its storm water and wastewater management systems, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said.

“St. Louis, America’s gateway city, grew up alongside the Mississippi,” EPA Regional Administrator Karl Brooks said in a statement announcing the accord today. “For too long it treated the river’s tributaries as a dumping ground for sewage.”

The agreement settles a 2007 U.S. lawsuit filed against the fourth-largest U.S. sewer system under the federal Clean Water Act. From 2001 to 2005, systemic failures caused raw sewage to back up into homes, parks, streets and playgrounds at least 7,000 times, the agency said.

Money for the remedial work will come from St. Louis rate payers “with little or no federal assistance,” the district said in a separate statement today. The accord is subject to a 30-day public comment period and court approval, the EPA said.

Created in 1954, the district is responsible for collecting and treating wastewater and managing storm runoff for a 525- square-mile (1,360-square-kilometer) network including all of St. Louis and 80 percent of its encompassing county.

Pollution Controls

The agreement requires the district to install new pollution controls, expand treatment capacity at two plants and build three storage tunnels, each two to nine miles (3.2 to 14.5 kilometers) in length, according to the EPA.

The district will also spend at least $100 million on a “green infrastructure program” to store and evaporate storm water instead of letting it flow into the sewer system.

“The St. Louis sewer system -- like much of the infrastructure in our region -- is very old and in need of investment and upgrades,” the district said.

The case is U.S. v. Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District, 07-cv-1120, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Missouri (St. Louis).

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Harris in Chicago at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at

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