Secondary Treatment of Municipal Wastewater in the St. Louis Area:

Minimal Impact Expected

CED-78-76: Published: May 12, 1978. Publicly Released: May 12, 1978.

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The objective of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972 was to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation's waters. Publicly-owned treatment works were required to provide secondary treatment by July 1, l977, and to use the best practicable technology by 1983. To assist publicly owned treatment works in providing secondary treatment, the Act authorized the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to make grants of up to 75 percent of the costs. Federal funds approximating $163 million are planned to be spent for the construction of two municipal secondary treatment facilities in the St. Louis, Missouri, area.

No significant change in Mississippi River water quality is expected to result from the planned investment of about $216 million, including $163 million in federal funds, in secondary treatment facilities in St. Louis. Although EPA and other officials have mentioned possible long-range reductions in potentially cancer-causing materials, these benefits have not been validated or quantified. Large increases in energy use and large accumulations of sludge from secondary treatment operations are expected. These considerations will have an impact not only on energy and environmental issues but also on the St. Louis area residents who will have to bear increased operation and maintenance costs. According to St. Louis Sewer District officials, these costs will more than double. Sewer District officials felt that little benefit would result from upgrading two treatment plants from primary to secondary status. However, both Missouri and Illinois officials believed that more benefits would result if federal funds were used for other projects in their states.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we determine what steps the Congress has taken, we will provide updated information.

    Matter: Congress should amend the law to eliminate the mandatory requirement for secondary treatment of discharges and to permit the Administrator, EPA, to grant waivers, deferrals, or modifications on a case-by-case basis to this requirement.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The 1981 amendments to the Clean Water Act authorized that combined sewer overflow projects be limited to those affecting bays and estuaries, and that no combined sewer overflow projects for fiscal years (FY) 1983 through 1985 be funded beyond FY 1985. This action by Congress effectively eliminates the combined sewer overflow program.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, EPA, should reevaluate its policy of subordinating combined sewer overflow and collector sewer projects to municipal plant projects, in view of the Clean Water Act of 1977 which allows states more flexibility in determining construction grant priorities.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency


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