Coalition seeks to end raw sewage overflows
April 16, 2007
Most of us don't know it, but billions of gallons of raw sewage flows directly into our rivers and streams each year. Raw sewage. This means untreated human waste: harmful chemicals, oil, grease, and everything else we flush down our toilets and drains.

The Missouri Coalition for the Environment on April 12, 2007, sent a notice of intent to sue to the St. Louis Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) in an effort to resolve this nasty yet enduring problem. The Coalition wants MSD to commit to cleaning up a sewage system in desperate need of repair.

The System is Broken

St. Louis has two problems. First, the older parts of St. Louis have an outdated combined sewer system that carries both sewage and storm water in the same pipes. As a result, all sewage and storm water is carried to a sewage treatment plant and the entire big mess must be treated together before it can be released to a stream. During storms, however, there's just too much extra water for the plant to handle, and so the raw sewage/storm water mix is diverted into pipes that bypass the treatment plant and head straight for the stream.

Second, while the newer parts of the region have separated their sewage and storm water systems, the sewage systems were poorly designed and have not been adequately maintained. Storm water is infiltrating these sewers causing raw sewage to overflow into streams and to back up into basements.

Seeking an Enforceable Plan & Public Accountability

While we recognize that there is no quick fix, MSD has been dragging its feet for more than ten years. Despite being required by law to submit a long-term and comprehensive plan for addressing sewage overflows, MSD has missed each deadline and still has no plan. In 2004, the EPA noted that MSD's failure to plan has caused St. Louis to fall behind most other cities. The Coalition thinks it's time for St. Louis to catch up.

Given MSD's historic resistance to public oversight and transparency, questionable project management practices and an embezzlement scandal involving the agency’s attorney, the Coalition also thinks it's time to hold MSD accountable.

With this legal action, we seek an enforceable schedule of repairs and a layer of accountability that will, in the end, clean up our town and leave us with streams that are clean enough for kids to play in and for fish to live in.

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