City of Hattiesburg Must Clean Up Wastewater

Leaf River, Hattiesburg

Photograph by Tim Kiser. A boat ramp along the Leaf River at Hattiesburg, 4 Jan 2004.

Hattiesburg, MS– On September 29, 2014, Judge Keith Starrett of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi signed a consent judgment between Mississippi River Collaborative organizations (Gulf Restoration Network, represented by the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic), the City of Hattiesburg and the Mississippi Commission on Environmental Quality to settle GRN’s suit against the city for Clean Water Act violations stemming from discharges from the city’s sewage treatment lagoons to the Leaf and Bouie Rivers.

“It’s great that the city has come to the table for this settlement,” said Andrew Whitehurst, Water Program Director with Gulf Restoration Network. “This is a win-win for the environment and the people of the city of Hattiesburg, ensuring that the Leaf River is cleaned up while allowing the city the flexibility and time it needs to improve its sewage treatment facilities.”

The consent judgment requires the city to design and construct a plant that can treat the city’s wastewater sufficiently to meet its permit limits and other discharge requirements of the Clean Water Act by September 2018. It also requires the city to fund a water quality monitoring station in the Leaf River, downstream of its discharges, to gauge the health of the impacted river. In addition to the consent judgment, GRN negotiated amendments to an agreed order between the MCEQ and the city that imposes financial penalties if the city fails to meet design, construction and compliance deadlines. The amended order also strengthens the interim permit limits the city must meet until September 2018.

“The city’s sewage lagoons have been the subject of state enforcement orders for over twenty years,” stated Corinne Van Dalen, Attorney with the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic. “The goal of this settlement is to end that pattern by making the terms of the amended agreed order between MCEQ and the city enforceable by the federal court.”

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