PEORIA, Ill (WMBD) — Peoria plans to have significantly less sewage discharge from the local wastewater system into the Illinois River and Peoria Lake over the next 20 years.

In a press release, The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the state of Illinois announced an agreement with the City of Peoria and the Greater Peoria Sanitary District (GPSD) to reduce combined sewer overflows (CSO).

The agreement would have the city implement a remedial measures program, allowing the city to invest in infrastructure projects that reduce both the number and volume of CSO discharges.

“This consent decree strengthens protections of our state waterways by reducing pollution in the Illinois River and Lake Peoria,” said Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul.  “Both bodies of water provide recreational opportunities for area residents. Under the consent decree, the city of Peoria will take important steps, such as utilizing green remedies, to improve water quality.”

City officials said they plan to use a large amount of green infrastructure to do this, including investing in permeable pavement, rain gardens, and bioswales. An estimate shows Peoria’s overall CSO controls would cost around $129 million with the goal of hitting four interim progress milestones.

Those controls are expected to be completed by Jan. 1, 2040.

“This consent decree resolves years of violations by Peoria and GPSD of the Clean Water Act’s requirements relating to municipal sewer systems,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jonathan D. Brightbill of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.  “The agreement will dramatically reduce the volume of pollutants discharged to the Illinois River and Peoria Lake and represents a successful collaboration between the United States and state of Illinois to reach a promising solution.”

“This settlement will provide a model for other communities that want the opportunity to demonstrate the effectiveness of green infrastructure and the flexibility to take advantage of improvements in green infrastructure technology over time,” said Susan Bodine, EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.  “I want to thank the state of Illinois and the city for working with EPA to develop a creative solution that will benefit city residents and surrounding communities through better water quality and enhanced recreational opportunities.”

The agreement will also require GPSD to put forward some improvements that would inflate the flow of combined sewage from Peoria to its Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP). This process includes cleaning GPSD’s portion of the combined sewer system.

That’s not all; the agreement requires GPSD to cut discharges from two remote treatment units in its sanitary sewer system by July 1, 2028. This will cost about $25 million and estimates indicate it will be fully completed by 2032.

Additionally, Peoria will need to develop a public participation plan that keeps Peorians in the loop about the CSO remedial measures program. This would occur through an enhanced CSO notification system that alerts the public when a CSO occurs through the city’s website or through their personal email.

Finally, the settlement requires Peoria to pay a $100,000 civil penalty and perform a state supplemental environmental project. For the civil penalty, Peoria will pay the United States $75,000 and pay Illinois $25,000.  The supplemental environmental project requires Peoria to perform stream and gulley restoration for Turkey Creek in the Springdale Cemetery area. In addition, GPSD will pay a $150,000 civil penalty, split evenly between the United States and Illinois.

Officials said once the projects are finished, Peorians can expect to see a 92 percent reduction in average annual CSO and around 696,000 pounds of pollutants won’t be discharged to the Illinois River and Peoria Lake each year.

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