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Special Order by Consent for Sanitary Sewer Overflows

Like many older cities, portions of Hampton Roads’ sanitary sewer system are aged and in need of repair or replacement. Cracks, fractures, sags, misaligned or broken joints, and other problems in pipes and manholes can cause back-ups and allow wastewater to leak into surrounding soils. Cracks and breaks in the system also allow groundwater and stormwater to enter into the sanitary sewer system; these flows are referred to as infiltration and inflow.Infiltration and inflow can cause substantial increases in wastewater flows during rainfall events. When the system is clogged or choked with flows beyond its capacity, sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs) can occur. During SSOs, a mixture of untreated sewage, groundwater, and stormwater overflows through pipes or sewer manholes. Because many sewer lines are located near area waterways, this increases the likelihood of SSOs causing localized water pollution problems. SSOs into waterways are violations of the federal Clean Water Act.

Hampton Roads localities, the Hampton Roads Sanitation District (HRSD), and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) are parties to a Special Order by Consent (SOC) to reduce SSOs and are working through a regional process to address the regulatory requirements. The SOC was issued by the Virginia State Water Control Board and outlines specific actions to be taken by localities and HRSD. The SOC requires two steps: 1)rehabilitation of the sanitary sewer system to reduce infiltration and inflow; and 2)long-term improvements to provide adequate system capacity.

HRSD is party to a 2010 Consent Decree settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that resulted from a joint complaint filed by the United States and Virginia for alleged SSOs since 2003. The Consent Decree requires HRSD to pay civil penalties and to take corrective actions to reduce SSOs, including working with localities to develop a regional plan for long-term capacity improvements. More information about SSOs and the Consent Decree is available on HRSD’s “EPA Wet Weather Consent Decree” web page.

Regionalization of Wet Weather Capacity

The Hampton Roads Sanitation District (HRSD), the cities of Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Poquoson, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Virginia Beach, and Williamsburg; the Town of Smithfield; and the counties of Gloucester, Isle of Wight, and York; and the James City Service Authority each voted to support a regional approach to address wet weather sewer capacity requirements. Under this approach, HRSD will fund rehabilitation of the locality owned systems and HRSD’s portion of the system. HRSD and the localities approved a March 10, 2014 Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to define the roles, responsibilities, and obligations of HRSD and localities for the development, financing, and implementation of the Regional Wet Weather Management Plan and the assurance of adequate wet weather sewer capacity in the Regional Sanitary Sewer System in the future.

After reviewing the August 2013 Regionalization of Sewer System Assets Study (described below), HRSD and localities developed this approach to manage wet weather capacity and save roughly one billion dollars over a 30-year period in capital and operation/maintenance costs as compared to the alternative approach where each locality funds rehabilitation of its own system under the existing SOC. HRSD and localities are working with the EPA and DEQ to modify the federal Consent Decree and SOC as appropriate.

Regionalization of Sewer System Assets Study

Given the enormous financial requirements for compliance with the Special Order by Consent and the Consent Decree, a study was completed to evaluate the cost savings of consolidating all local sewer systems in Hampton Roads under a single regional wastewater service provider. The final report, Regionalization of Sewer System Assets Study, was completed in August 2013, and HRSD submitted the report to the EPA before the August 31, 2013 deadline. The report was distributed to the HRPDC membership through the September 19, 2013 HRPDC Executive Committee meeting agenda packet.

The report recommends consolidating the sewer systems under HRSD. Consolidation would save approximately $1 billion over 30 years and simplify implementing sewer upgrades by optimizing the rehabilitation plans to be more cost effective. The schedule approved by DEQ and the EPA requires each governing body to make a decision by February 2014 on whether or not to pursue consolidation.

The report and supporting documents may be accessed via the following links:


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