Posted: Oct 23, 2012 6:08 PM by Andrew Ellison - firstname.lastname@example.org
Updated: Oct 23, 2012 6:46 PM
CORPUS CHRISTI - The Environmental Protection Agency says the city of Corpus Christi needs to fix sewage line overflows and it could cost the city hundreds of millions of dollars.
The city says it wants to fix the problem, but it concerned that what the E.P.A is asking for is too expensive and doesn't directly deal with issue.
It all started a year ago when the E.P.A issued administrative orders to the city that basically told the city they have to foot the bill for wastewater repairs. If the city is forced to make all the repairs the E.P.A is asking for, it would cost nearly $900 million dollars. That means residents could be paying an average of 65 more dollars per month on their wastewater bill over the next 10 years.
Many old sewer lines in Corpus Christi need repairs. Cracks and dents in the pipes can lead to sewage backing up and flowing out into the streets and waterways.
And because a small amount of that overflow goes into some federally controlled waterways, the E.P.A has the right to step in and order the city to pay for wastewater improvements.
In fact, the city estimates the amount of untreated wastewater that overflows from the system a year is 7.5 millionths of a percent, and that water only reaches the federal waterways five times a year.
Councilman David Loeb says the E.P.A is overstepping its bounds when it comes to the wastewater system and is mandating changes that don't fix the problem.
"Our system is not being run by the city council or the staff members who are professionals and who work on that system everyday. It's being run by lawyers and bureaucrats in D.C.," Loeb says.
Loeb says the E.P.A is demanding expensive changes to the city's water treatment plants, but according to city data, only 4% of sewage over flows come from problems like water treatment plants.
Loeb says many of these improvements, he feels are uneeded and will cost the city dearly.
"The numbers that we have seen so far are of a scale that if they don't bankrupt the city, would seriously injure the ability of our citizens to pay their utility bills and that's not acceptable," Loeb says.
That's why city officials like Assistant City Manager Oscar Martinez are looking for ways to reach a middle ground with the E.P.A.
"We want to protect the health and safety of our residents but we want to do it in a way that's affordable... Our job is to educate them about our system and how it works and that's what these negotiations are all about," Martinez says.
We tried to reach the E.P.A's regional office in Dallas earlier today, but have not heard back.
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