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U.S., Chicago-Area Water Agency in Accord on Pollution Case

Dec. 14 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. and Illinois agreed with the agency responsible for almost 900 square miles of Chicago-area waterways on a plan to reduce the amount of sewage and storm water flowing into that system.

The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago agreed to pay a $675,000 civil penalty and to the establishment of a timetable for completion of a tunnel and reservoir plan, the district and the U.S. Department of Justice said in separately-issued statements.

The accord ends a lawsuit filed against the water management agency by the state and federal governments earlier today at the U.S. courthouse in Chicago and is subject to court approval.

“These much needed upgrades to Chicago’s sewer infrastructure will reduce combined sewage overflows and the public’s exposure to harmful pathogens,” Assistant U.S. Attorney General Ignacia Moreno said in a Justice Department statement.

A governmental unit operating independently from the municipalities surrounding it, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District manages about 883.6-square-miles of regional waterways.

One of them is the Chicago River, which flows through the middle of the third-biggest U.S. city. Chicago has a population of nearly 2.7 million, according to the results of the 2010 federal census.

The U.S. and Illinois, in their joint complaint, accused the district of violating the federal Clean Water Act by failing to properly treat sewage and storm runoff.

The case is U.S. v. Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, 11-cv-8859, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Harris in Chicago at aharris16@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.

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