SAWS News: SAWS Agrees to Settlement with EPA to Curb Sewer Spills
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SAWS Agrees to Settlement with EPA to Curb Sewer Spills

Additional estimated investment of $492 million required over 10-12 years

San Antonio Water System agreed today to invest an additional $492 million in infrastructure and maintenance to reduce sewer spills in San Antonio under a settlement, or Consent Decree, with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).

Settlement Agreement with the EPA

San Antonio will be one of more than 35 cities across the country currently under a Consent Decree for sewer spills that the EPA alleges violate the Clean Water Act.

“This agreement is designed for the most cost-effective use of ratepayer dollars and avoids costly federal litigation,” said SAWS President and CEO Robert R. Puente.  “It will improve service to our ratepayers.” 

Under the Consent Decree, SAWS will invest an estimated $492 million more than what the utility would have spent over the next 10 years to reduce sewer spills and maintain its sewer system infrastructure.  In addition, SAWS will pay a civil penalty of $2.6 million. 

“While these are costly and necessary investments, SAWS bills will remain among the lowest in Texas,” added Puente.

The costs of the settlement are already built into SAWS’ rate increase projections. 

“This agreement is a positive and meaningful investment in our city’s infrastructure and will protect the community and the environment,” said SAWS Chairman Berto Guerra. “By supporting it, we are making the responsible choice to reduce sewer spills and we are complying with the law.”

The work required to comply with the Consent Decree over a term of 10 to 12 years includes system-wide inspection, and cleaning and evaluation of sewer pipelines.  Also required are the targeted replacement and rehabilitation of aging infrastructure.  The work is tailored specifically to the 5,200 miles of pipe in the SAWS sewer system, avoiding unnecessary costs and focusing on the causes of sewer spills in San Antonio.

“Seventy-five percent of our sewer spills are caused by grease and debris, so we will be working hard to clean and repair sewer pipes.” said SAWS Chief Operating Officer Steve Clouse.  “We also ask all customers to help reduce sewer spills by placing grease in the trash instead of pouring or rinsing it down a drain.  Their efforts can be as impactful as their successful embrace of water conservation in San Antonio.”
For years SAWS has implemented an ongoing sewer spill reduction program to curb the number of sewer spills from its waste water system.  It has resulted in a 30 percent reduction in the number of spills from their peak. 

The agreement with EPA continues many of the same efforts in the SAWS program.  Including the cost of its ongoing program, SAWS projects that the total investment in its sewer system over the next 10 years could reach an estimated $1.1 billion.  “This is a responsible investment in our city for the benefit of our ratepayers and our future,” said Chairman Guerra.

Now that SAWS has agreed to the terms of the Consent Decree, the agreement will undergo state and federal review before being filed in federal court.  Filing is expected to occur by late June 2013 and the agreement is expected to be approved by the court sometime in the fall. 

Materials related to the ongoing work to reduce sewer spills are available to the public at

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