EPA Reaches Clean Water Act Settlement With Utilities Commission

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Justice announced that it reached a settlement with the Northern Cheyenne Utilities Commission to resolve Clean Water Act claims in a press release on Tuesday, resolving unauthorized untreated water releases which have allegedly occurred for the last 13 years. 

According to the EPA, the Lame Deer Wastewater Treatment Facility in the Northern Cheyenne Reservation located in Lame Deer, Montana did not follow regulations under the Clean Water Act or its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit. 

A notice of the parties’ consent decree was filed in the District of Montana on Monday, and the settlement will be posted in the Federal Register during a public comment period. Under the decree, the Northern Cheyenne Utilities Commission will “make significant physical and operational improvements” to its wastewater facility and pay $1,500 to address violations in the past. The EPA explained that the monetary settlement amount has been “adjusted downward” because it determined that the defendant would not be able to pay more than that amount.  The defendant is required to make the changes during the next five years. 

Suzanne Bohan with the EPA said that this settlement came from “years of collaboration” with multiple parties. “The parties’ shared commitment to developing sustainable, community-specific solutions for improving wastewater infrastructure, utility management, and Clean Water Act compliance will help the NCUC provide reliable wastewater treatment services to the community, protecting public health and water quality on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation for years to come,” Bohan said. 

Reportedly, the facility has “been in recurring noncompliance” since 2008, it has exceeded limits, failed to submit reports or meet deadlines, not maintained its facility, bypassed treatment units without permission and discharged sewage that was either partially treated or not treated at all. The facility has also allowed untreated sewer water into Lame Deer Creek without authorization under its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination Permit. 

The EPA explained that it is assisting the defendant with improvement projects and helping it build its capacity. “The facility has not had a single lagoon overflow or collection system SSO since this action commenced and the technical workgroup was established,” the press release said.