City of Peoria approves consent decree, implementing projects to fix CSO issues

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — UPDATE: After 14 years of negotiations, a consent decree between Peoria and the federal government has been approved.

The decree is the first step to tackling the longstanding combined sewage overflow issues in the city.

The city manager said Peoria is considered a polluter and has been violating the Federal Clean Water Act dating back to the 1900s.

Now, the city is faced with a $100,000 fine and the tall task of funding a $109 million infrastructure project.

Mayor Jim Ardis said they are using sustainable solutions to save taxpayers money and create more job opportunities.

“We pivoted a number of years ago to come up with this what really is a 100% green solution, the first in the country,” Mayor Ardis said. “We really felt like we’d be setting the standard for other communities to look at when they’re working with the US EPA on how to address their CSO issues.”

This is an 18-year long project that will cause sewer rates to increase.

City council members like Sid Ruckriegel want taxpayers concerned about more fees to know this is an investment in the community.

PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Combined sewers have been tainting the Illinois River for years, now the city of Peoria is just five days away from finalizing a plan that will rectify the issue.

Fixing the infrastructure that causes combined sewage overflow (CSO) in Peoria will cost the city $109 million.

Peoria City Manager, Patrick Urich announced Thursday the city of Peoria plans to approve a consent decree Tuesday with the Greater Peoria Sanitary District, U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA).

For nearly 15 years, Peoria city leaders have been negotiating a settlement to the agencies’ claim that they violated the Federal Clean Water Act.

Urich said the negotiations spanned more than a decade for good reason.

“Part of the reason it’s taken us so long to get here is we’ve been trying to negotiate to a level that we felt that our citizens can afford,” Urich said.

To fund the first $15 million dollars of the project the city will seek financial assistance from the IEPA revolving loan program.

The infrastructure improvement project will extend over 18 years. After the 18 year period ends Urich said the city will have to pay $3.5 million annually for on-going maintenance costs.

Upon approval of the consent decree, Peorians will have to pay up too.

To help cover costs, Peoria residents will likely see an increase in sewer rates starting in 2023. Urich said taxpayers could expect to pay an extra $5.50 annually.

City leaders said they plan to take the most cost effective approach in fixing the issues.

Instead of constructing expensive pipes and tunnels, city leaders are pursuing green solutions like well farms that prevent storm water from entering combined sewers to begin with.

Before finalizing plans, Urich said city leaders will consult with the community.

The city plans to start the project in 2022. Throughout the 18-year period the city must reach project milestones and ultimately the end goal of reducing CSO volume by 100%.

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